CINCINNATI -- The Reds were swimming in dangerous waters this week, playing the past two games with just one healthy second baseman.
Brandon Phillips has missed the past two games nursing a strain in his left calf, and Wilson Valdez had to leave Wednesday's game early due to a stiff neck.
Luckily for the Reds, both players are set to return Saturday, and Valdez said his neck injury is basically 100 percent.
"I feel better. I'm ready to go," Valdez said. "When I slid into second base, my neck kind of popped. But I'm ready to go."
Valdez was already filling in for the injured Phillips, and the additional injury sprung utility man Miguel Cairo into action.
Cairo has seen action all across the infield this season, but he has only started 18 games all year. He got the nod both Wednesday and Thursday, and he was back in the starting lineup Friday for the opener of the Reds' big series against the contending Pirates.
"My job as a utility player is when someone is hurt or someone gets a day off, I've got to go out there and do my job," said Cairo, who isn't putting too much pressure on himself for the series. "It's just another game for me and another series. My intensity is going to be at the same level, and we're just going to have fun."
Cairo was hitting just .156 this season, with 14 hits and eight RBIs.
But manager Dusty Baker said he decided to start Cairo, who notched a 2-for-4 outing Thursday, over a nicked-up Phillips or Valdez so his second basemen can recover.
"If something happened to Brandon, then I've got to put another injured player out there for a semi-injured player," Baker said. "They'll both be a lot better tomorrow."