6/26/2014 12:42 A.M. ET
Reds playing it safe with Phillips' bruised heel
By Joe Popely / MLB.com
CHICAGO -- Brandon Phillips was penciled in to the starting lineup for Wednesday's series finale with the Cubs, only to be scratched more than two hours before the game.
Phillips has missed the last two games with a bruised right heel he suffered on Sunday. For the second straight day, Phillips received treatment and participated in pregame workouts -- including batting practice, and running and cutting to test the heel.
Reds manager Bryan Price said Phillips could have pinch-hit in Tuesday's 7-3 loss, but that he would take a cautious approach when deciding whether to play his starting second baseman for a full game. Phillips was available off the bench again Wednesday.
"Really the question is what can he do over the course of a nine-inning game," Price said. "My concern is getting him in there and without knowing for sure how he's feeling, and then realize that we got him in there and he's probably not ready to play nine innings. And then we take him out and we lose a player for the rest of the game. My tendency at this point at time would be to be more conservative."
Skip Schumaker took Phillips' place at second for the third consecutive game. Phillips was originally slotted fifth in the order, between Devin Mesoraco and Jay Bruce. The top four in the order stayed the same, while Bruce and Chris Heisey each moved up a spot. Schumaker was inserted into the seven-hole, in front of Zack Cozart and Mat Latos.
Power surge ends, but Mesoraco's All-Star case strong
CHICAGO -- Devin Mesoraco sits fifth among National League catchers in All-Star voting, but perhaps his recent record-tying streak turned some heads.
Mesoraco's surge of five consecutive games with a home run came to an end Wednesday night, though the Reds recorded a 4-1 win over the Cubs at Wrigley Field to take the series. The streak tied a franchise record and was one shy of the all-time Major League record for consecutive games with a home run by a catcher.
That shouldn't put a damper on what Mesoraco has accomplished this season.
With a single in the sixth inning, Mesoraco extended his hitting streak to eight games, and he's hitting .458 with five homers and 13 RBIs in that span. Mesoraco's All-Star case is probably hurt by the fact that he spent time on the disabled list with a strained left hamstring, but in the 44 games he has played, the backstop is batting an impressive .318 with 14 homers and 40 RBIs.
"That's something that would be a real honor to be a part of, and if I had an opportunity, I would be very, very thankful," Mesoraco said of a potential All-Star nod.
Reds outfielder Ryan Ludwick had some words of support for Mesoraco and third baseman Todd Frazier, who's also vying for a spot on the NL squad.
"It's good to see these young guys kind of blossoming before our eyes," Ludwick said. "It's been a tremendous upside for this team. To be in this situation we're at right now, without their performances as individuals, we could be further back in the loss column. They've really stepped up for us."
Mesoraco is a realist when it comes to his chances of making the All-Star Game. He has good numbers but faces an uphill battle at what has become a loaded position -- especially within his own division. He'd have to pass perennial All-Star Yadier Molina, as well as the Brewers' Jonathan Lucroy, who is having a monster year.
"I think that the catcher position overall in the Major Leagues is really doing very well swinging the bat," Mesoraco said. "There's a lot of good competition, but I think it speaks volumes of the quality of catchers in the game right now."
Either way, Mesoraco has been a major reason why the Reds have won their last four series to climb a game above .500 at 39-38.
"In how he's handled himself behind the plate -- this isn't just an offensive catcher anymore or a guy that everyone I think, maybe everybody saw as an offensive catcher," Reds manager Bryan Price said. "I think we're seeing a kid that is turning the corner as a defender, a game-caller, a guy that people really like to throw to on our staff, as well as a huge offensive contributor."
Arrieta enjoys offseason workouts with Bailey
CHICAGO -- Cubs pitcher Jake Arrieta and Reds pitcher Homer Bailey live about one hour from each other near Austin, Texas. The two 28-year-old pitchers have known each other since high school, and train together in the offseason. On Tuesday, Arrieta got the best of the Reds' starter in the Cubs' 7-3 win.
"For past five, six years we've been training partners, and we throw together -- 8 a.m., every morning," Arrieta said. "What impresses me so much about Homer is his work ethic. Bright and early every morning in the offseason, throwing, running, working out, taking care of his body -- he's a true professional.
"He does things the right way and really takes pride in keeping himself healthy and performing at a high level. I look forward to competing against him for a long time to come. It's fun to compete against guys you know well and train with. It's a fun situation to be a part of."
The two are friends off the field, competitors on it.
"Before the game, we kind of tip our caps to each other and acknowledge each other," Arrieta said. "When the game is underway, it's all business at that point."
The two offer each other tips during their workouts.
"We give each other little tidbits of advice," Arrieta said. "When the offseason rolls around, we fight for each other and try to make each other a little better."
Votto to be given reprieve during road trip
CHICAGO -- Joey Votto is not one to ask for a day off. Generally speaking, something has to force him off the field.
During seasons in which Votto has been completely healthy, he hasn't missed many games. He played in 151 games in 2008, 150 in '10, 161 in '11 and all 162 games last season.
Votto missed nearly a month this season with a strained left quadriceps. Since coming off the disabled list on June 10, Votto has started all 14 games, in which he's hit .278/.385/.370.
Reds manager Bryan Price said Votto will likely be given a day off at some point during the club's current 10-game road trip.
"We talk fairly regularly, and he's doing the things that I think he feels he needs to do to continue to be productive," Price said. "As I've mentioned before, I don't know if we'll every see him at 100 percent over the course of the season. With that being said, he hasn't felt there's any reason at all to have taken him out of the lineup."
Votto's .278 average since returning to action is solid, but his slugging percentage is well below his norm. He has five doubles and no homers in the 14 games since he was activated. Has the quad affected his power?
"I don't think its the fault -- if he's scuffled a little bit, it's been because of the wear and tear," Price said.
• Mesoraco has excelled in the cleanup spot during the two games that normal cleanup hitter Phillips has missed, going deep twice with six RBIs. So when Phillips returns, does he automatically get back the cleanup spot in favor of the red-hot Mesoraco, who was hitting .458 with a 1.760 OPS during the seven-game hitting streak he took into Wednesday?
"I don't want to be the guy that's constantly shuffling the lineup when things are going well for us offensively," Price said. "But with Brandon out, Devin's kind of seized that opportunity and performed in the four-hole. And at least until we get Brandon all the way healthy, then he could be there for that."
• Entering play Wednesday, the Reds' .494 winning percentage at Wrigley Field (433-444-5) is the second best by any team that has played at least 200 games there.
Joe Popely is an associate reporter for MLB.com. Carrie Muskat contributed to this story. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.