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05/11/12 6:39 PM ET

Reds start stretch of 20 games in 20 days

CINCINNATI -- Friday marked the start of what will be Reds' longest stretch of games this season without a day off -- 20 games in 20 days. The next off-day is May 31.

The first 14 of those games, including this weekend vs. the Nationals, are against teams with winning records.

"You just hope whoever is pitching the first part of this 20-game stretch, that we don't get into our bullpen right away," Reds manager Dusty Baker said on Friday. "Last year, there were a couple of times we had long stretches where I was in my bullpen early. This stretch may depend on where we are and where we're going."

Baker did not rule out giving key players days off during the next three weeks.

"That's where everybody comes into play," he said.

Baker gives Phillips green light to run

CINCINNATI -- Reds second baseman Brandon Phillips finally has the green light to run when he wants, and he couldn't be more pleased.

Phillips feels 100 percent again after he spent much of April hampered by a sore left hamstring. He missed five starts, but otherwise played through the injury without going on the disabled list. Until recently, manager Dusty Baker would not allow Phillips to take chances on the bases.

"Dusty has given me the open, thank you Lord," Phillips said on Friday. "I feel like I don't have any handcuffs on me right now. I'm very happy about that. Now I can steal a base. He gave me the hold sign a lot. Now I'm starting to feeling better. Hopefully I get my stolen bases, some key hits, and get this thing going."

Phillips entered Friday batting .253 with two home runs and 10 RBIs, but had heated up with two hits in each of his previous three games -- including two doubles.

"My legs were killing me a little bit and my offensive numbers weren't where they [should be]," said Phillips. "I wasn't really tripping or getting mad about it, because I knew I was playing hurt. ... Now I'm feeling a whole lot better, and people can tell by the way that I am running and hitting."

Baker wants to get Marshall back out there

CINCINNATI -- Reds closer Sean Marshall wasn't coming off a blown save entering Friday's series opener with Washington, but his last outing was one where he didn't complete the task.

In the Reds' 2-1 win over the Brewers on Wednesday, Marshall threw 35 pitches in the ninth but notched only two outs while giving up a Ryan Braun homer among his three hits allowed. Logan Ondrusek had to finish the game and record his first big league save.

"I want to get him out there, but not as eager as I was the last time [after an April 26 blown save]," Reds manager Dusty Baker said. "The hard thing about being at the back end of the game, you're only remembered by what you did your last game."

Reds, Bruce make night special for teen

CINCINNATI -- Holding a pristine white baseball and a marker on Friday, 14-year-old Wyatt Hildebrecht awaited one of his idols on the field during Reds batting practice. It was right fielder Jay Bruce, who signed Hildebrecht's ball and Reds cap. Bruce also handed over his batting gloves, also autographed.

It was a nice boost for Hildebrecht, who is from Lynchburg, Ohio. On March 25, he was wounded in the head during an accidental shooting and left permanently blind.

"I'm excited because Jay Bruce is my favorite," Hildebrecht said. "I love the Reds. I played baseball, so this is big."

Hildebrecht's pastor wrote to the Reds, who invited him for a night at Great American Ball Park as part of the club's "special wishes" program. The boy was also visited by players Scott Rolen and Todd Frazier, among others. Hildebrecht can no longer play baseball, but is trying to find other sports that can fill his need to compete.

"I used to swim competitively when I was seven, against nine-year olds and win," Hildebrecht said. "So I am trying to get back into that as my sport."

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.