Reds make lineup changes after Ludwick injury
APR 03, 2013 5:20p ET
CINCINNATI — Brandon Phillips wasn’t wearing a pointy hat with moons and stars on it as he stood in front of a media conference before Opening Day.
He should have. He proved to be quite the wizard, quite the reader of the future.
The Grand Plan all spring was for Phillips to bat second in the Cincinnati Reds batting order for the entire 2013 season.
Asked about it, he said prophetically, “Do I think I’ll bat second all year? No.”
It lasted one game. Left Fielder Ryan Ludwick tore up his shoulder sliding head first into third base on Opening Day and could be lost until after the All-Star break.
So there it was, hanging on the clubhouse wall before game two of the season: “Phillips, Fourth.”
As he consumed a plate of beef stew before Wednesday’s game, Phillips said, “It stinks, man. It really stinks. I had my focus on hitting second, knowing I was going to be there all year. I hit there in the World Baseball Classic, I hit there with the team all spring training.
“Just hearing them say I was going to hit second for the whole season made me look forward to it,” he said. “I wanted to show baseball my talent, at what I could really do. Now I have to go back to driving in runs, my number-one goal. I can’t worry about my average. And it stinks that we lost Ryan Ludwick.”
Asked about his sage comment before Opening Day, Phillips smiled and said, “I knew it wasn’t going to last that long. It always happens to me. Who else is going to do it? They had to call on somebody.”
Manager Dusty Baker had a night to sleep on it, a full night of tossing and turning.
“I thought about Todd Frazier, but he’s too young, too inexperienced,” said Baker. “I thought about Chris Heisey (who is taking Ludwick’s place in left field) but he isn’t that kind of hitter to bat there. I have to break up our strikeouts. We have a lot of guys prone to strikeouts between Joey Votto, Frazier and Jay Bruce. Heisey strikes out, too.
“I talked to Brandon on the off day and said, ‘I know I told you you’d be in one spot in the order, so I guess fourth is the spot I’m going to leave you in,’” Baker said with a laugh. “Brandon is a guy who can hit all over the order. He’s done it. He has driven in 100 runs (98 in 2009), scored 100 runs (107 in 1007). He isn’t your prototypical No. 4 hitter, but he has done it.”
For now, Chris Heisey is in left field and batting second.
“I’m here to do my job and right now, today, it is to play left field as a starter,” said Heisey. “That’s all I’m going to do.”
It is a sad/happy situation for Heisey.
“I’m sad for Ryan because he is a good friend,” said Heisey. “I hope he gets back quicker than they expect. This is how I got to the big leagues in the first place. Chris Dickerson broke his wrist and all of a sudden I was in the big leagues.”
That was 2010 and Heisey has been with the Reds ever since, mostly as a fourth outfielder/pinch-hitter, a role in which he flourished. Not so much, though, when he was given short bursts as a starter.
“I’ll get more playing time and hopefully take advantage of it,” said the 28-year-old 17th-round draft pick in 2006 out of Mechanicsburg, Pa. “I’m hitting between some dynamic hitters (Shin-Soo Choo at leadoff and Joey Votto at No. 3) and that’s pretty cool. I’m looking forward to it. I’ll be asked to do some bunting and some hit-and-runs, but it is all stuff I’ve done in the past.”
Heisey has always been The People’s Choice, a player they want to see more in the lineup.
And Baker has taken hits for not playing more, even though Baker said, “I’m the one who got him up here, the guy who asked for him, even though he wasn’t hitting that good in Triple-A at the time (.241). Do I like him. Yeah, a lot. Some guys on the team even call him my son.
“This is his opportunity to get extended play and I hope he doesn’t put too much pressure on himself,” said Baker. “I’m making it as easy as I can by batting him in front of Joey Votto. Now it is up to him.
“It’s how he handles playing every day and that’s when the strong stand up — if you can handle it every day. And believe me, I’m pulling for him.”
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