Since deal, Phillips has thrived vs. Tribe

Since deal, Phillips has thrived vs. Tribe

CINCINNATI -- It's hard to believe that once upon a time, second baseman Brandon Phillips was an unwanted and discarded ex-prospect from the Indians.

To say that Phillips has made the most of his second chance with the Reds would be the understatement of the last four years since his April 2006 trade.

"What happened in the past made me stronger," Phillips said.

Once again this weekend, Phillips will be facing Cleveland, Cincinnati's regional rival, in Interleague Play. Over six games in the next month, called the Ohio Cup series, it will be another opportunity for Phillips to show his former club what it gave up.

In his career against the Indians, Phillips is hitting .343 (24-for-70) with four homers and 14 RBIs, including seven RBIs in last year's games.

"I wish them the best. When the Reds play them, I hope we sweep them," Phillips said.

Obviously, one team's hamburger is another team's filet mignon. Phillips said he didn't change after the Indians traded him to the Reds in 2006, but felt the Cleveland brass tried too hard to alter his game and his personality.

"I couldn't really be me," Phillips said. "When someone takes the joy of the game from you and wants you to be and play a certain way, it's kind of hard for a player to go out there and perform how they're used to. When I was with the Expos, no one said nothing to me. I got the job done. That's why the Indians wanted me. I was the No. 1 prospect in that trade [for Bartolo Colon]. I got there before Grady [Sizemore] and Cliff [Lee] and was balling over there.

"When I got called up, [former interim manager] Joel Skinner told me to come over and have fun and just play the game. I did that. The next thing you know in 2003, we had a new manager [in Eric Wedge] and I was on standby. I had to be a totally different person. Everything I did wasn't on their standard. The Indians wanted old-school coaching, and that's what [Wedge] wanted to do."

Phillips batted .206 in his parts of four seasons with the Indians. He was designated for assignment at the end of 2006 Spring Training before the Reds made the trade in early April.

Tthere are no regrets for Phillips, who signed a four-year, $27 million contract before last season.

"I still take the blame because I was the one that was playing every day," Phillips said. "If you look at the numbers, I did it. Not them. They weren't hitting for me. But the way they wanted me to play and wanted me to hit, it wasn't my way.

"When it came to the next Spring Training, [I said] they'll either like it or they'll trade me. And they made their decision and I became a Red. I think it was the best decision I ever made. I'd rather go out saying I did it my way instead of saying I did it somebody else's way and I wished I did it my way."

No one in Cleveland has likely talked about Minor League pitcher Jeff Stevens, whom the Indians acquired in the Phillips deal. In fact, Stevens is no longer with the Indians' organization.

Phillips proved to be a coup of an acquisition by former general manager Wayne Krivsky and has become an indispensible cog in the Reds' lineup and infield. Since coming to Cincinnati, the 27-year-old Phillips has hit 75 home runs and driven in 280 runs. He had 30 homers and 30 steals in 2007 and won a National League Gold Glove in '08.

The Reds have also been pleased with how Phillips' work in the community. He never turns down requests to go on winter caravan or to charity events. On Saturday, a local youth baseball diamond will be renamed Brandon Phillips Field after he made a $25,000 personal donation to the Reds Community Fund and its field renovation program.

This season, Phillips is batting .275 with seven homers and 33 RBIs. He hit a three-run homer in the fifth inning of the Reds' 12-5 loss to the Phillies on Thursday. In May, he's batting .356 (26-for-73) and leads the NL for the month with 26 RBIs.

"When I came over here, Wayne and [former manager] Jerry Narron did their jobs. I give them props for that," Phillips said. "I felt like I was home. It was beautiful how they opened their arms to me and the fans made me feel like I have to be here. If it wasn't for those three things, you never know where I would be."

Reds Interleague Play record: 77-95 overall, 9-6 in 2008

Record vs. Indians: 27-30, 5-1 in 2008

2009 Interleague schedule

• May 22-24: vs. Indians
• June 12-14: at Royals
• June 19-21: vs. White Sox (Civil Rights Game on June 20)
• June 23-25: at Blue Jays
• June 26-28: at Indians

Pitching matchup
CIN: RHP Bronson Arroyo (5-3, 6.56 ERA)
Arroyo has lost two of his past three starts, but pitched well his last time out on Sunday. He just had the misfortune of opposing Padres ace Jake Peavy, who went the distance while shutting the Reds down by a 3-1 score. Arroyo pitched seven innings and allowed three earned runs and six hits with four walks and four strikeouts.

CLE: RHP Anthony Reyes (1-1, 6.88 ERA)
Reyes turned in another unremarkable outing Friday against the Rays, allowing five runs (three earned) on five hits with a walk and four strikeouts over 5 1/3 innings. Staked to a 7-0 lead, he couldn't capitalize, and the Indians went on to lose the game. Reyes doesn't have great stuff. He's a command pitcher. And when he can't command in the inside part of the plate, opposing batters pounce.

Reds notes
Willy Taveras is 8-for-23 (.348) this season with runners in scoring position. ... Homer Bailey will start for Cincinnati on Saturday after Edinson Volquez went on the 15-day disabled list Thursday with back spasms.

Tickets
 Buy tickets now to catch the game in person.

On the Internet
 MLB.TV
 Gameday Audio
•  Gameday
•  Official game notes

On television
• FS-O

On radio
• WLW 700

Up next
• Saturday: Reds (Homer Bailey, 0-6, 7.93 in 2008) vs. Indians (David Huff, 0-1, 17.18), 7:10 p.m. ET
• Sunday: Reds (Johnny Cueto, 4-2, 2.35) vs. Indians (Cliff Lee, 2-5, 2.90), 1:10 p.m. ET
• Monday: Reds (Aaron Harang, 4-4, 3.19) vs. Astros (TBD), 1:10 p.m. ET

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