Notes: Phillips playing key role

Notes: Phillips playing key role

NEW YORK -- The Reds' Brandon Phillips says he's not paying attention to his numbers.

"I've just been playing baseball," Phillips said.

If he were to take a peek at the statistics, Phillips would know he's been just about the best among all second basemen.

Phillips leads all Major League second basemen with 19 home runs. He is second with 55 RBIs and 16 stolen bases and fourth with 104 hits. One more homer, and he'll be the first Reds second baseman with 20 since Bret Boone hit 24 in 1998.

"I've been feeling good all year, except when it was cold," said Phillips, who was batting .280 overall. "I haven't been getting tired or anything. I'm healthy. I'm just trying to hit the ball the best way I know how. Positive things are happening right now. It's a blessing, I'll tell you that."

Phillips' second-inning solo home run off Tom Glavine on Saturday was one of just two Reds hits in a 2-1 loss. In a 2-for-4, one-RBI day Sunday, he extended his hitting streak to 11 games. In Friday's win, he hit a first-inning grand slam.

And Phillips' defense hasn't taken a backseat to his hot bat. On Friday, with a runner on first base, Phillips stopped a Carlos Beltran one-hop rocket to get the out at first base.

"I guarantee [you that] 95 percent of the infielders would have given it the 'ole' shot," Reds interim manager Pete Mackanin said. "He threw his whole body in front of it. That's the kind of stuff that tells me what he's all about."

"That scared me," Phillips said. "He hits the ball hard. I don't know how I knocked it down. If it didn't hit my glove, it would have hit my face. I'm just glad I knocked it down. That play could have changed the game."

Mackanin has consistently used Phillips in the cleanup slot, but has raved about his second baseman's willingness to do what it takes. In a recent game, Phillips offered to lay down a sacrifice bunt, despite the fact that he was batting cleanup.

"You hear things about the guy and the guy's attitude, [that] maybe he could work a little bit on his makeup," Mackanin said. "You know something? Since I've seen him, he's a pleasure to be around. I see a guy that loves to play the game. He's not scared. He goes up there to try and beat you."

Got the first one: Catcher Javier Valentin entered Saturday 0-for-17 in throwing out basestealers. He just happened to get off the schneid by gunning down the Major League leader in steals, Jose Reyes.

Reyes, who was nailed with a perfect throw to second base in the third inning, had 46 steals entering Saturday.

"It's good to get out the best guy in the league," Valentin said. "I feel a lot better after that."

Valentin is one of the club's top pinch-hitters and a backup to David Ross, but is known to have a suspect arm.

"He's a pretty good guy to throw out," Mackanin said of Reyes. "[Valentin's] time was 1.93 seconds to second base, which is above average. It shows he's capable of it. Two seconds is acceptable and probably the average. When you're below two, that's above average. If he can do it once, he's got it in him."

Valentin has been putting in extra work before recent games, practicing his throw to second base.

"What I've been doing the last couple of weeks paid off last night, finally," Valentin said. "The first one is always good. It's there. I know what I can do."

Quick hops: For the first time since June 10, right fielder Ken Griffey Jr. was kept out of the Sunday's lineup vs. the Mets. It ended a streak of 27 straight starts for Griffey, who is 2-for-15 (.133) with five strikeouts lifetime against pitcher Oliver Perez.

The Reds did not make a roster move to replace shortstop Alex Gonzalez, who was placed on bereavement leave on Saturday. Gonzalez is in Cincinnati to be with his 10-month old son, Johan, who is ill.

Pitcher Bobby Livingston will take Gonzalez's 25-man roster spot when he's called up from Triple-A Louisville to start against Atlanta on Monday. Gonzalez is expected to return on Tuesday, when another corresponding move will be made.

Actor/comedians Adam Sandler and Kevin James were on the field taking batting practice before Sunday's game. James cleared the fence a couple of times. Sandler was seen talking with Reds pitching coach Dick Pole in the outfield while shagging fly balls.

Coming up: Livingston (1-0, 3.00) will face Kyle Davies (4-7, 5.55) as the Reds battle the Braves at 7:05 p.m. ET on Monday at Turner Field.

Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.