9/8/2013 8:42 P.M. ET
Improving Cueto faces Reds hitters during BP
By Jeremy Warnemuende / MLB.com
CINCINNATI -- For the first time since June 28, right-hander Johnny Cueto faced batters on Sunday at Great American Ball Park. The bad news for the Reds is that Cueto wasn't pitching in a game, as he threw about 30 pitches to teammates during batting practice.
The good news, though, is that Cueto is inching closer and closer to a return to the team.
"He looked very good," manager Dusty Baker said. "He was sharp for the amount of time he's been out. He had good command, good velocity and his pitches were pretty sharp. His mechanics are so sound that he's not going to be too far off."
On the disabled list for the third time this season with a right lat strain, Cueto was expected to throw a bullpen session on Saturday. Instead, his work was pushed back a day so he could pitch to batters on Sunday, including Xavier Paul, who mentioned that one of Cueto's cutters nearly broke his bat.
Along with Baker, head trainer Paul Lessard, pitching coach Bryan Price and Reds general manager Walt Jocketty were on hand to watch Cueto, who threw strictly out of the stretch. The next likely step, according to Baker, is for Cueto to throw another simulated game. When that occurs depends on how the Cincinnati ace comes out of Sunday's session.
"I was just happy he's throwing," Baker said.
Phillips slides back into cleanup role
CINCINNATI -- As expected, Brandon Phillips was back in the Reds lineup on Sunday after getting a day off Saturday to rest his injured left quad. However, after nine games batting in the two-hole, Phillips was back at cleanup for the finale against the Dodgers, returning to the spot where he spent most of the season.
Manager Dusty Baker said part of the reason for the switch was that Phillips has been one of the only players on the team to experience much success against left-hander Clayton Kershaw. Entering Sunday, Phillips had gone 8-for-19 with a double and a walk against the Dodgers' ace.
That wasn't the only motivation for the switch, though.
"His role has changed back again to driving in runs vs. scoring runs," Baker said of Phillips. "He was driving in runs early. Then we talked about his on-base percentage, and since he went into the second spot he changed his approach and different things. I'd be curious to know what his on-base percentage was when he was batting second, just in that period of time."
The answer is .381, and although that's lower than Baker's guess of .400 or more, it's significantly higher than Phillips' .315 season on-base percentage before play began on Sunday. Phillips also collected six RBIs in his nine games batting second.
Left fielder Chris Heisey took over in the two-hole on Sunday, giving Phillips -- who this year became the only Reds second baseman other than Joe Morgan to drive in 100 or more runs in a season -- more of an opportunity to bring guys home.
As for Phillips' quad contusion, which he suffered on Thursday against the Cardinals, Baker said he didn't know if one day off would be enough to prevent it from being a lingering issue.
"I just told him to play smart because you don't have a week [to heal]," Baker said. "At this point in time, a week is one-third of the season that's left."
Frazier didn't intend to mock Wilson
CINCINNATI -- Todd Frazier doesn't have any interest in showing up his opponents. But after delivering a walk-off single off Brian Wilson in Saturday's 10-inning win over the Dodgers, part of Frazier's celebration included crossing his arms to form an X, closely resembling what the Los Angeles reliever has done in the past after recording saves.
Frazier's celebration was caught by TV cameras, and he said on Sunday that he heard some people thought the move was directed at Wilson. However, he wanted to make it known that was not the case.
"It might have looked like it," Frazier said. "But me and [Reds left fielder Xavier Paul], we've got a thing going on where we also [cross our arms]. I guess my hands were in a certain way. I wasn't trying to mock anybody. That's the last thing I try to do."
Although Frazier was aware of Wilson's regular post-save celebration, he did not know the meaning behind it. When told that Wilson forms the X partly in honor of his late father and his Christian faith, Frazier said he never would have done it had he known.
"I had no clue about that," Frazier said. "I was going to talk to him. I don't know if he got the message or not. I wanted to square that up because I'm not that type of player. I'll try to talk to him during batting practice today."
Jeremy Warnemuende is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.