Phillips credits health for hitting renaissance

Phillips credits health for hitting renaissance

PITTSBURGH -- The catalyst for Reds second baseman Brandon Phillips' extended offensive surge could be less about hitting mechanics or adjustments and more about orthotics and healthy doses of both fear and comfort.

Phillips, who hit his 10th home run of the season in Friday's 4-3 Reds victory over the Pirates, added three more hits and scored twice during Saturday's 8-7 win against Pittsburgh. He is batting .361 with four homers and 17 RBIs over his last 31 games. He was hitting .344 in 49 games since July 6.

"It's just getting healthy, just feeling better," Phillips said. "The thing that really was the problem was my foot. A lot of people didn't really know about that thing that happened to me in Milwaukee. I have special orthotics I'm wearing right now and it really helped me a lot. When you can feel your lower half, a lot of things can really happen."

On May 29 at Miller Park, Phillips jammed his left foot and ankle into a concrete wall under the padding while making a sliding catch into a wall on a foul pop.

"Now my toe looks crooked. It looks like Billy Hamilton's toes," Phillips joked.

Phillips, 35, has endured several nagging injuries this season, but hasn't been on the disabled list. He's dealt with fouling balls off of his feet and shin, took a helmet to the left knee in Milwaukee on Aug. 14 and was hit on the hand by a Noah Syndergaard fastball in April.

"He's had some aches and pains and banged up his knees and fouled balls off his feet and done some things this year. But you know, he's really healthy," Reds manager Bryan Price said. "I think he had a pretty healthy year last year but he came off two years in a row where he had wrist and hand problems. It seems to me that he's having a lot more fun than he has in the past.

"I think he loves to play baseball. But I think as you get older, you gain perspective on what's really important. I think he's just enjoying his teammates and enjoying the fact that he's still here with the Reds. For a guy in a situation with a team in last place, he's made the most of it. He's enjoyed it."

Phillips was nearly traded in the offseason, but invoked his no-trade protection even as the Reds have entered a rebuilding period. Next season he will earn $14 million in the final year of his six-year contract.

"I remember he told me when I first got the manager's job, he said 'I want to play as long as I can.' That's why he trains so hard in the offseason, why he does all that pregame stuff that he does," Price said. "He's very ritualistic with his routine because he always fears the next young guy coming up and taking his job. That's refreshing for a veteran player. I think it's a great outlook because he doesn't want to give his job anyway to anybody. He fights to keep it and I think that's one of the reasons you're seeing kind of a renaissance."

Phillips also indicated he is taking nothing for granted.

"It feels good just to show people I can still play this game," he said. "I'm just out here just having fun while it lasts."

Mark Sheldon has covered the Reds for since 2006, and previously covered the Twins from 2001-05. Follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon and Facebook and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.