THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
GOODYEAR, Ariz. — Second baseman Brandon Phillips is embracing the chance to bat lower in the Cincinnati Reds’ order.
Phillips has been Cincinnati’s most versatile hitter, moving from spot to spot whenever there’s been an injury. He’s led off a lot because the Reds haven’t had a proven top-of-the-order hitter. He’s also hit in the second, third and cleanup spots.
The Reds acquired Shin-Soo Choo from Cleveland in an off-season trade, giving them someone to bat first. Now Phillips can move down a bit to a spot that fits him better. He says he likes batting third best of all, but is willing to move around if needed.
"The player that will benefit the most with Choo here is Brandon Phillips," general manager Walt Jocketty said. "He has been all over the lineup and has been great about it, but we think his best spot in the order is second."
Phillips has gotten used to moving around in the batting order and doesn’t mind where he hits. He prefers the No. 3 spot.
"If I could hit anywhere, I would like to hit third like I did in ’07," Phillips said. "I feel like I can do everything that I want to do. I feel like a total ballplayer. Also, you feel like you’re the man when you hit third."
Phillips batted third just 17 times in 2007, hitting .239 in that slot. He batted fourth in 81 games and hit .306. He prefers that to batting second.
"When you bat second, you’ve got to get the guys over, there are a lot of hit-and-runs," Phillips said. "You don’t get to steal that often. You’re like the setup man in the lineup.
"Whatever they want me to do to make the team better, I’ll do it. I just want to win."
Manager Dusty Baker and his teammates have praised Phillips for his willingness to move around in the batting order. Baker has referred to him as his most valuable player for his versatility in the batting order.
Even though Phillips has moved around in the batting order, he has remained a productive hitter.
"It’s good to see Dusty and my teammates really respect that," Phillips said. "There are not too many guys who can do what I do."
Phillips finds it difficult to set individual goals, but he is quick to identify team goals. The Reds have won the NL Central in two of the last three seasons, but failed to make it past the first round of the playoffs.
"I want to get to the next round of the playoffs," he said. "I want to start there. Of course the goal every year is to win the ring, but I feel like you’ve got to take steps.
"As for myself, it’s kind of hard because every time I set a goal, I have to change somewhere in the batting order. It’s kind of hard to reach those goals. Like one year I was trying to get 100 RBIs when I hit fourth, then I had to bat leadoff. Then I wanted to score 100 runs and they put me back to fourth.
"There are so many things that it’s hard to set goals for myself."
Phillips is getting ready to represent the United States in the World Baseball Classic, something he’s called a dream come true. The Reds have blocked starter Johnny Cueto from pitching for the Dominican Republic.
Cueto won 19 games last season but strained a muscle in his right side during the playoffs, forcing the Reds to drop him from the roster. Because he ended the season hurt, the Reds had the option of preventing him from pitching in the WBC.
"I wanted to pitch for the Dominican but the team said no. It’s all right," Cueto said Thursday. "I am going to work to get ready for the season. I was ready to pitch. I’m 100 per cent."