Wednesday, May 10, 2006
Phillips trying to keep his cool as he cools off at plate
BY JOHN ERARDI, JOHN FAY AND KEVIN KELLY | ENQUIRER STAFF WRITER
Going into Tuesday's game, Reds second baseman Brandon Phillips had hit enough balls hard in his 3-for-25 funk to understand that redemption probably is just around the corner.
If Wee Willie Keeler was famous for "hittin' 'em where they ain't," Phillips is the poster player for hitting them where they are.
He's swinging better than he's getting. Of course, when he was red hot, he had a little bit of Wee Willie working for him, so things have a way of working out.
And that's what outfielder Adam Dunn reminded him of the other day when Phillips had scorched another line drive directly into a defender's glove, and cursed his luck.
"Adam came over and quieted me down," Phillips said. "He told me, 'Don't worry about it. Just go up there the next time and act like you've got a 1,000-game hitting streak going.' I said, 'OK,' and the next time up I got a hit."
Dunn grinned when he heard that Phillips had recounted the exchange.
"Nobody could keep the pace he had going - well, nobody I've seen, except Junior (Griffey) - so there's no sense going up there thinking there's something wrong when there's probably nothing wrong," Dunn said. "(Phillips) carried us for two or three weeks, whatever it was. We wouldn't have won 17 games in the first month if it wasn't for him."
Phillips said he hasn't let the funk affect him in the field. "We're still winning; we're still in first place; that's what counts," he said.
All he is concentrating on at the plate is "having a quality at-bat," he said.
"For me, a quality at-bat is seeing a lot of pitches, waiting for a pitch I can drive and not just swinging at everything that comes up there," he said.
Going into Tuesday's game, Phillips' numbers were still very good: .287, 23 RBI, three home runs and five stolen bases. He was third on the team in RBI. He went 1-for-3 Tuesday.
HOW QUICKLY THEY FORGET: Some Reds followers are down on Edwin Encarnacion's fielding at third base (nine errors), but does anybody remember Barry Larkin? The Reds great was as sure-handed as they come at shortstop, but it wasn't always so automatic. When Larkin was Encarnacion's age (23), he made 29 errors.
BUT DOES HE DO WINDOWS? Reds pitching sensation Bronson Arroyo (5-1) will anchor sports on today's WKRC-TV (Channel 12) 6 p.m. telecast. He's following in the shoes of another local sports sensation, Bengals wide receiver Chad Johnson, who also has anchored Local 12 sports.
MILTON IMPROVING: Reds starting pitcher Eric Milton is working his way back from arthroscopic surgery on his left knee. He took pitcher's fielding practice Tuesday and is scheduled to throw a simulated game or at least face a few hitters today.
"We'll see where he is after that," Reds manager Jerry Narron said.
Might Milton pitch in the Hall of Fame exhibition Monday in Cooperstown, N.Y., against the Pittsburgh Pirates?
"There's a good chance of it," Narron said.
BONG LEAVES FOR KOREA: Nothing, as it turns out. That's what the Reds got for pitcher Chris Reitsma.
The Reds' relationship with Jung Keun Bong effectively ended when the club agreed to release him to allow him to return to his native Korea and enter the draft there.
"He didn't want to be here anymore," said Johnny Almaraz, Reds director of player development/international operations. "His father isn't in the best of health, and he wanted to go back and play closer to his family."
By rule, Bong can't pitch for the Reds for nine more years.
Bong, along with Bubba Nelson, was obtained for Reitsma from Atlanta on March 26, 2004. It was former general manager Dan O'Brien's first trade.
Nelson was released earlier this spring. So the Reds basically have nothing to show for dealing Reitsma, who has been a setup man/ closer for the Braves since the trade.
Bong, a 25-year-old left-hander, had been pitching at Double-A Chattanooga. He was 1-1 with a 5.09 ERA in four games, including two starts. Bong was building up innings after being used as a situational left-hander by the Korean team during the World Baseball Classic.
"We still considered him a prospect," Almaraz said. "He's only 25.
"But in the Asian culture, families are very close. It was something he believed in. He wanted to play in front of his father."
HOMER ON: Homer Bailey, the Reds' No. 1 prospect, has proven that when he's on, he's too much for Florida State League hitters to handle.
Bailey took a no-hitter into the sixth inning Monday for the second time in three starts in Single-A Sarasota's 2-1 loss to Jupiter. Bailey got a no-decision. He left after reaching his 90-pitch limit.
Bailey walked one and equaled a career high with 11 strikeouts.
Bailey is 1-3 with a 3.35 ERA after seven starts. He has allowed only 24 hits, striking out 44 in 372/3 innings.
"We're working on some mechanical things with Homer," Almaraz said. "When he gets consistent with them, we'll move him - probably to Double-A at the halfway point."
FLARE-UP: Paul Wilson wants nothing more than to contribute this season, but a fatigued shoulder stalled his progress last week.
The Reds pitcher, who is trying to come back from June surgery to repair a torn rotator cuff and frayed labrum, returned to Cincinnati after making the second start of his rehabilitation assignment.
"We just pushed it too much," Wilson said. "My velocity went way down. We hit a wall, man."
The velocity on Wilson's fastball hovered around 86 mph during a seven-inning rehab start with Single-A Dayton on April 27. It dropped into the low 80s during a six-inning start with Triple-A Louisville on May 2.
"I was still getting guys out," Wilson said. "But I did everything I could to loosen it up, and it wouldn't get loose."
An examination showed inflammation in the shoulder but no structural damage. The Reds hope anti-inflammatories and rest will do the trick.
Wilson threw off flat ground Monday and Tuesday. It has not been determined when his rehab assignment will resume.
"It's just bad timing," Wilson said. "There hasn't been any good timing with this."