The Cincinnati Reds shouldn’t be in a position to contend for a postseason berth this year, but the level of competition in the NL has allowed the Reds to stick around just long enough for the return of Brandon Phillips from injury to have a real impact.
Phillips won’t likely return to the Reds until he’s proven during minor league rehab games that he can hit with his surgically repaired thumb. But if he can return sooner rather than later, the difference he can make at the plate alone will bolster a Reds’ team that is now 11-18 since Phillips inured his thumb on July 9.
Even a halfway healthy Phillips would upgrade a Reds lineup that struggles to score runs. Phillips won’t produce a high on-base percentage, but he is a contact hitter who moves runners, hits with gap power and consistently changes his approach with two strikes to help his team score more — unlike too many of his underachieving teammates.
Since the odds of Joey Votto returning this season are looking less likely, the Reds are going to need Phillips even more if they have any realistic chance of surviving their current second-half collapse without Phillips.
And Reds fans are going to need Phillips, too, because watching the musical-chairs lineups that first-year manager Bryan Price trots out onto the field is an act that’s grown old, especially after the Reds have now dropped four of their last five games — all one-run losses.
Price is obviously working with less due to the injuries to Phillips and Votto, but the Reds’ 17-28 record in one-run games and Price’s inability to require his hitters to better adapt to game situations and approaches at the plate will probably make him the gladdest of all to see the reliable Phillips finally return.