B. Phillips makes most of his second chance

Nl Notebook


It's not an official statistic or something the Elias Sports Bureau can research. But it's possible Cincinnati Reds infielder Brandon Phillips has had the craziest month in the history of baseball.

He batted .316 in the spring, but was out of minor league options and the Cleveland Indians didn't have room for him. So he was designated for assignment on April 1. Phillips, 24, went home to Georgia and worked out with his high school baseball team. Meanwhile, Major League Baseball's regular season started.

"It was difficult in the beginning being at home for a week and just knowing you are going to get traded," Phillips said. "I started getting aggravated. I started getting anxious. I was ready to go somewhere and play."

There were plenty of suitors for the once-heralded prospect. The Orioles, who already have two All-Star middle infielders, were intrigued by Phillips' upside and were a finalist in the sweepstakes for him.

On April 7, Phillips was dealt to the Reds for a player to be named. It was a strange fit. The Reds already had All-Star shortstop Felipe Lopez and three second basemen: Ryan Freel, Rich Aurilia and Tony Womack.

"I wasn't looking at it like that," Phillips said. "For a team that trades for you, there's a reason they want you over here."

When center fielder Ken Griffey injured his knee, Freel moved to the outfield and, with Aurilia playing primarily first base, Phillips and Womack were left to battle for second.

In a mild understatement, Phillips seized the opportunity. In a seven-game stretch from April 17 to 23, Phillips batted .451 with four multi-hit games, three homers and 17 RBIs - the most by a Red in one week since Ray Knight in 1979.

He went from scrapheap to the league's Player of the Week in a blink.

To keep Phillips in the lineup, Womack was designated for assignment last week and Freel will return to a super-utility role. But Phillips is taking nothing for granted.

"I really enjoyed it and I am very thankful for the week," Phillips said. "But now I have to go back to baseball and try to have another one."

Heartbreak in a box

If eight losing seasons weren't enough for Orioles fans, how about this depressing trip down Memory Lane? Major League Baseball and A&E Home Video have released a seven-DVD set of the 1979 World Series.

For $69.95, viewers can watch the "We Are Family" Pittsburgh Pirates come back from a 3-1 deficit to beat the Orioles over and over again. It features every pitch in the Series, as well as interviews with Willie Stargell, Dave Parker and other Pittsburgh players. It's unknown whether Marylanders can order it without the final three games.

WBC hangover

The jury is out as to whether the World Baseball Classic adversely affected its participants, since some players are doing well in April (Miguel Tejada, Albert Pujols) while many others have struggled (Adrian Beltre, Jake Peavy).

But count Nationals manager Frank Robinson on the side of those who believe most players weren't ready for the WBC competition and then fell into bad habits trying to catch up once they returned to spring camps.

"It plays into it a little bit," Robinson said.

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