ST. LOUIS -- Seeking to stay in the playoff race, the Reds need all of the help they can get right now. One of the key players they've been missing during the second half returned on Monday when second baseman Brandon Phillips was activated from the disabled list before Monday night's 6-5 series-opening loss to the Cardinals.
Phillips went 0-for-4 with a walk and two strikeouts.
He played three games in a Minor League rehab assignment. In two games with Triple-A Louisville, he was 0-for-5 with a walk. On Sunday for Class A Dayton, he was 2-for-3 and was hit by a pitch.
"He looks good. Our reports from our Minor League managers and staff have been very positive," Reds manager Bryan Price said. "We also realize six weeks ago, he had major surgery on his hand. He'll have a brace that will hopefully prevent the thumb from bending back."
Phillips had been on the DL since having July 11 surgery to repair torn ligaments in his left thumb. He was injured trying to make a diving catch. Price conceded that Phillips wasn't 100 percent healthy, but good enough, as he went from inactive to playing his fourth game in four days on Monday.
"I think the expectations are he will compete and have competitive at-bats," Price said. "He'll influence us in a positive way with his energy and his desire to be here and play. I don't know what to expect. ... It's a large part of why he's hitting sixth today. We want to give him the opportunity to get more at-bats under his belt. He's doing what he's capable of doing, but we've kind of got to get our eyes on him and take a look and see what's going on."
Through a Reds official, Phillips declined to comment about returning.
Without Phillips, the Reds limped with a 12-21 record while also having injured top hitter Joey Votto to the DL. Before his injury, Phillips wasn't having his best year at the plate -- batting .272 with seven home runs, 40 RBIs and a .701 OPS. But Cincinnati is ranked 29th among Major League clubs in batting and is last in on-base percentage and slugging. His return has been highly anticipated by the club and he returned a week ahead of the six-week timetable expected after the surgery.
"With an injury like that, you don't see people coming back this quick," Reds third baseman Todd Frazier said. "It goes to show you the resilience of him and the type of player he is. He wants to play. That's the kind of guy we want."
Also activated from the DL was reliever Logan Ondrusek, who last pitched on July 13 before going on the DL July 22 with a strained right shoulder. Ondrusek pitched a two-hit scoreless inning for Triple-A Louisville on Friday.
To make room on the roster for Phillips and Ondrusek, catcher Tucker Barnhart and starting pitcher Dylan Axelrod were optioned to Louisville. Reliever Curtis Partch, the 26th man in the doubleheader at Colorado on Sunday, was also returned to Louisville.