Reds second baseman Brandon Phillips was injured Saturday against the Pirates when he lined a foul ball off his lower leg. It swelled up so quickly that he had to be taken out of the game and miss the regular-season finale Sunday.
But Phillips will return to the lineup tonight when the Reds play the Pirates at PNC Park in the wild-card playoff game, and that is good news for the Reds. Phillips is Cincinnati's best right-handed hitter, which is significant against Pirates left-hander Francisco Liriano.
Phillips was limping noticeably Saturday after he fouled the ball off his leg and after the game, but Reds manager Dusty Baker said Monday that his second baseman was moving around much better Sunday.
"I expect Brandon to be in there," Baker said. "I saw Brandon [Sunday], and he wasn't limping, he was pimping ... not literally."
Baker's quip drew some laughter from the assembled media, but Phillips said it isn't a joke. He is feeling much better and is ready to go.
"I feel good, when the lights come on, the stars come out, so I am looking forward to it," Phillips said. "Literally, I'm pimping, too, but I'm not limping right now. I'm not 100 percent but I haven't been 100 percent all year, but I am going to go out there and do what is best for the team."
Phillips has 606 at-bats in 151 games and is hitting only .261 but he has 18 home runs, 24 doubles and is second on the team with 103 RBIs.
Weekend is over
The Pirates swept the Reds this past weekend, so the inevitable questions about momentum and which team has an advantage in that department came up. Baker doesn't believe there is any carryover from one game to the next.
"It doesn't mean anything now because that is what new means, new means you get rid of the old," Baker said. "It is behind us now, it is a new season, the stats of the old season don't count, and stats of the new count. This is an elimination game, you either win or you go home.
"I've always said, momentum is in the hands of the pitcher, if a guy is pitching well, then momentum means nothing. We have our ace on the mound, Johnny Cueto, so we plan on winning just like they plan on winning."
Mat Latos originally was scheduled to start tonight, but he had to be bumped because of bone chips in his right elbow and a strained oblique.
Baker said the decision to pull Latos and use Cueto was an easy one, particularly once Cueto, who has had an injury-riddled season as well, said he was healthy enough to pitch.
"If [Latos] goes out there and only throws an inning or so, you have to carry an extra guy just in case, so it was not a tough decision," Baker said. "I learned from when I was playing. [Houston's] J.R. Richard said something was wrong and complained about shoulder pain but they didn't believe him cause he was throwing the heck out of the ball. Then, he had that stroke and never pitched again in the major leagues, So, if a guy says something is wrong with him it isn't a tough decision, you have to take him at his word.
"Johnny is not feeling any pain, Johnny Cueto is psyched about getting the ball, he loves to pitch, he loves to compete. We feel good about Johnny Cueto."
Banged up like everyone
Baker said the Reds have a few other players, like pitcher Homer Bailey, who are fighting injuries but he said that doesn't make the team unique.
"Everybody is hurt this time of year, it is just a matter of how hurt," Baker said. "If you are not playing a little hurt, you didn't play very well this year. Those are the only guys going home in the winter time not hurting, because if you played any kind of way there are some bones, ligaments and muscles you left out on that field.
"In fact, if they go out there and dig up the field, they could make about eight people out of what they find."
Paul Zeise: firstname.lastname@example.org, 412-263-1720 and Twitter @paulzeise.