© 2012 MLB Advanced Media, L.P. All rights reserved.

05/08/12 8:12 PM ET

Phillips shows signs of improvement

MILWAUKEE -- Reds manager Dusty Baker believed he was seeing signs of Brandon Phillips starting to heat up. The Reds second baseman was 2-for-4 in Monday's 6-1 win and drove the ball hard three times.

Phillips, who was plagued with a sore left hamstring much of last month, ran the bases at full speed when he doubled to left field in the sixth inning. It appears he's nearly 100 percent again.

"It's getting close because I see him itching to steal," Baker said on Tuesday. "I'm still saying no, but I see him itching. If larceny is in your veins on the bases, it's hard to get it out."

Baker expects that Phillips will be turned loose on the bases soon.

"When the hot weather gets here, he'll be wide open," Baker said. "He's done well at playing smart."

Ludwick eager to shake early slump

MILWAUKEE -- Reds left fielder Ryan Ludwick really wouldn't mind if his slow start to the season ended quickly.

Like now.

"I would love a three-hit or four-hit game," Ludwick said on Tuesday. "I feel like there have been a lot of 'o-fors' lately. When you have a lot of those in a row, it will show up in the batting average -- no doubt about it."

While he entered the day with three home runs and 11 RBIs, Ludwick also carried a .185 average into the game vs. the Brewers. That included a 1-for-15 clip over his previous four games.

Ludwick is familiar with slow starts and had one last season while with the Padres when he batted .198. That was followed up by a May where he batted .314.

"I've hit like 16 ground balls on the left side of the infield. If five of those find a hole, it's a whole other ballgame," Ludwick said. "But they haven't. When I put the ball in play, I feel like I'm getting barrel quite often, but unfortunately, it's been on the ground or popped up straight into the air. I don't feel like I'm making bad contact.

"Obviously, I'd like to cut down on my strikeouts a little bit. I feel like those are coming later in the game. You're 0-for-2 and you start pressing a little bit."

Ludwick continued his struggles at the plate as he finished Tuesday's 8-3 loss to the Brewers 0-for-3 with a walk and a strikeout. He has 19 strikeouts in 68 at-bats this season.

Throughout the first month of the 2012 season, Ludwick has stayed positive and has not forgotten about the big picture.

"The most important thing is we're winning ballgames," Ludwick said. "Looking around the league, guys like Albert [Pujols] and Jose Bautista make me feel a little bit better about myself. Rickie Weeks is a good hitter and he's scuffling. It's early and those guys have 50 more at-bats than I have."

Cozart settles in to leadoff role

MILWAUKEE -- After initially struggling from the leadoff spot, Reds rookie shortstop Zack Cozart carried a five-game hitting streak into Tuesday. Cozart was batting .333 (6-for-18) with two homers during the streak. That included a leadoff homer on Monday that started a five-run fourth inning in a 6-1 win over Milwaukee.

"I told him to just be himself and not try to be what the spot in the batting order dictates for him to be," manager Dusty Baker said on Tuesday. "He's had some high quality, high number at-bats. He sometimes starts the game off with a seven- or eight-pitch at-bat because he battles and battles and fouls off some pitches. He's a grinder and a fighter type. He doesn't appear as such until he gets on the field."

Worth noting

• Entering Tuesday, Reds relievers carried a 23 1/3-scoreless-innings streak over their last eight games. It was the group's longest streak since a stretch of eight scoreless games (17 1/3 innings) from July 26-Aug. 4, 2000. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the franchise record is nine games -- set in both 1971 and 1987.

Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Mark My Word, and follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.