CHC@CIN: Phillips crushes a majestic two-run shot

CINCINNATI -- Joe Morgan still has a locker in the Cincinnati clubhouse. It sits immediately next to the locker of Brandon Phillips, and the current Reds second baseman has been sure to use that convenient location to his benefit.

"I look up to him," Phillips said of Morgan. "He's my locker partner. He helps me out with many things, and I pick his brain."

Morgan -- a Hall of Famer -- spent seven seasons in Cincinnati, setting various club records for second basemen. Now in his seventh season, Phillips has either passed or is close to passing many of those marks.

Phillips now leads Morgan in doubles (221 to 220) and hits (1,214 to 1,155) as a Red, and he is seven RBIs and two home runs short of Morgan's records of 612 and 152, respectively. For Phillips, surpassing Morgan from a statistical standpoint has never been a main concern, and he tries to avoid comparing himself to the man he describes as "the best second baseman to play this game."

"One thing he always told me just talking to him, he said, 'Man, don't try and be like me, just try to be better than me,'" Phillips said. "And I said, 'Well, to try and be better than you, that's going to be pretty hard, but I'll try my best.'"

So far this year, Phillips is doing just that, as he leads the National League with 42 RBIs entering Saturday's game. He's also riding a season-high 11-game hitting streak, and he's tacked on eight home runs to go with his 54 hits and .289 batting average.

None of the stats matter to Phillips, though, because as he said, "It's all about the rings."

Morgan won two of them with the Reds. And with the season Phillips is putting together, it might be appropriate to mention Morgan also won back-to-back MVPs in 1975-76.

"Brandon's working on one of them," manager Dusty Baker said.

Heisey progressing after re-injuring hamstring

CIN@WSH: Heisey hurts hamstring, leaves in second

CINCINNATI -- Chris Heisey, who is recovering from a strained right hamstring for the second time, said he doesn't know yet when he'll be able to join the Reds again, but he expects it to be sooner rather than later.

"It won't be a month, but it won't be three or four days," Heisey said. "Maybe a week or two. It's tough to say at this point."

Heisey has been on the disabled list since April 29. He began a rehab assignment with Double-A Pensacola, but he re-injured his hamstring about two weeks ago, setting him back a few steps in his recovery. The 28-year-old left fielder said he's "very close" to being back to where he was before aggravating the injury.

"It was frustrating, obviously," Heisey said. "I felt like I was a couple days away from being back with the team, and then I got hurt again. Hopefully it won't be too much longer. It's progressing."

In the meantime, Heisey is on an extensive rehab program that includes heating, icing, stretching and exercises, and he'll likely stick with the team when it embarks on a road trip to Cleveland and Pittsburgh starting on Wednesday.

"If I'm not able to go on a rehab assignment by the time the team leaves, I'll probably go with them because I'm able to hit, throw and do a lot of baseball activities," Heisey said.

Baker extolls virtues of practicing defense

CHC@CIN: Phillips attempts great backhanded flip

CINCINNATI -- Almost a third of the way through the season, the Reds have proven to be one of the best defensive teams in baseball by committing just 20 errors -- the third lowest mark in the National League -- entering Saturday. That, manager Dusty Baker said, is no accident.

"We work on it," Baker said. "Every good team I've had catches the ball. I tell guys, 'If you can't catch the ball, then you can't play on my team.' In San Francisco, I had Gold Glovers everywhere. I had capable guys that worked at it in Chicago, and then I have guys here -- you go out and watch Joey [Votto], watch Brandon [Phillips], watch [Zack] Cozart."

Different coaches work with specific position groups -- outfielders, infielders, pitchers and catchers -- as often as possible. Although Phillips stands out with his flashy glove work, solid defense has been a focus across the board under Baker.

Baker admitted that teams don't win games on defense, "but you can lose them." And although many players would rather hit the batting cages than work on their fielding, Baker said practicing defense is a better use of time.

"Defense is work," Baker said. "Hitting is fun, but defense is work."