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Phillips not fearing contract situation

Phillips not fearing contract situation

CINCINNATI --- Brandon Phillips isn't sweating it one bit.

The Reds second baseman could soon be facing off against his club in arbitration for the first time. Talks have yet to become fruitful about a multi-year contract that would avoid a hearing.

No worries, Phillips says.

"I don't really pay attention to that," Phillips said on Wednesday. "I let my agent [Seth Levinson] do that. I just say to him, 'If it's a good deal, let me know. Other than that, don't bring it to my attention.' I just want to stay happy and enjoy life. Once you worry about things, you start to get mad. I don't worry about it."

Last week, the two sides exchanged numbers. Phillips is seeking $4.2 million for 2008 while the club counter-offered with $2.7 million -- a difference of $1.5 million. The 26-year-old, who earned $407,500 last season, has long maintained he would like to be in Cincinnati long term.

"I want to be here the rest of my career. I like it here," Phillips said. "I want to be the Barry Larkin of this era. Barry was the one when he was with the Reds and I want to be like that also."

Phillips was one of several Reds to appear at the annual LaSalle High School "sports stag" in Cheviot -- a precursor to Thursday's Reds Winter Caravan start. Also, at the event was outfield prospect Jay Bruce and reliever Todd Coffey while Reds great and Hall of Famer Joe Morgan served as keynote speaker.

Last season was a breakthrough for Phillips, who batted .288 with 30 home runs, 94 RBIs and 32 steals. He joined Alfonso Soriano as the only second basemen to be a 30-homer, 30-steal player and the third in the team's history.

Looking liked he bulked up over the offseason, Phillips hasn't had a restful offseason. In fact, he said, he turned the dial up another notch to get ready for the 2008 season.

"I wasn't relaxed. I worked out harder and sooner," Phillips said. "[New manager] Dusty Baker called me and told me what Barry Bonds did. He took only a couple of weeks off. I want to be one of the best players in the game and decided to work out earlier. A lot of people said you've gotten more muscular. I've worked out harder this year. There's nothing wrong with trying to do better than what you did last year. I never want to stay even."

That doesn't mean Phillips has put last season to bed completely even though he's mere weeks away from reporting to Spring Training.

"I look at last year's tapes and see what I struggled on," he said. "I learned a lot about last year. It still comes up in my mind, especially when people keep asking me, 'What's up with 30-30? Are you going to do 40-40 this year?' I just want to have a good year and do better than I did last year. My No. 1 goal is to get to the playoffs."

Roster move: Outfielder Jeff Fiorentino was designated for assignment on Wednesday. The Reds needed space on the 40-man roster after signing free-agent pitcher Jeremy Affeldt to a one-year, $3 million contract. Fiorentino was picked up off of waivers from the Orioles on Jan. 4.

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

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