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."
Phillips out of lineup Friday, likely to start Saturday
CINCINNATI -- Brandon Phillips was kept out of the lineup again Friday night as the Reds open a three-game series with the Pirates, but he is expected to start again Saturday.
Phillips left Tuesday's game against the Padres early with a strain in his left calf and didn't play Wednesday or Thursday.
Reds manager Dusty Baker said Phillips probably could have played Friday, but it was a risk the skipper wasn't willing to take.
"We had to make a decision," Baker said. "It's a situation where I had to do what I thought was best for Brandon. He's not real pleased about it because he wanted to play. With the way it's going this season, it's best I give him one more day."
Baker said Phillips, who is hitting .296 with 13 home runs and 62 RBIs this season, was available to pinch-hit late in the game if needed.
"More than likely in a two-out situation, so he doesn't really have to bust it to beat out a double play or something," Baker said of Phillips' chances of playing Friday night. "You've got to use what you think is best. It's just that I can't take a chance right now. With the improvement he's made from two days ago to yesterday and today, it's worth me waiting."
Phillips did not speak to the media before Friday's game, but Baker said his All-Star second baseman was pushing hard to return to the lineup.
"It was hell holding him off today," Baker said. "He probably won't speak to me the rest of the night. I gave him some of my wife's enchiladas to try and defuse the situation. I don't think it worked too good, but that's OK. He got a meal out of it."
Playing matchup, Baker gives Bruce night off
CINCINNATI -- Reds manager Dusty Baker had several tough decisions to make before Friday's series opener against the Pirates.
One of the most difficult was deciding to hold out All-Star right fielder Jay Bruce.
Bruce was hitting .318 in his past 13 games entering Friday, including three home runs, nine RBIs and four doubles.
But with Wandy Rodriguez taking the mound for the Pirates, Baker played the matchup and left Bruce out of the lineup.
Bruce has faced Rodriguez 29 times in his career and has recorded just two hits off him while striking out 15 times, holding a .069 batting average.
"That was another tough decision," Baker said. "If it was playoff time, would I have opted for Jay? I've got some other guys who hit Wandy well. I'm trying to downplay the series, because he's been relaxed most of the time."
Chris Heisey, who was hitting .357 with a home run and four RBIs in 15 at-bats against Rodriguez entering Friday, started in Bruce's place.
Brennaman meets $20K goal to shave head on field
CINCINNATI -- Reds fans and partners made it official Friday. The $20,000 goal set by Marty Brennaman earlier this week was met, and the Hall of Fame Reds broadcaster was set to shave his head on the field after Friday night's game with the Pirates.
Through online donations and contributing groups to the "Shave Marty" campaign, Brennaman will be holding up his end of a pledge he made with the Reds earlier this season. If the club won 10 games in a row, Brennaman would lose his hair.
The Reds did just that from July 19-29.
"I never dreamed when I said what I said on the radio last Sunday in Denver that it would go viral, which it has," Brennaman said. "It's ridiculous. A guy is getting his hair cut, what are we talking about here? And raising a lot of money in the process for the [Reds] Community Fund, so it's not all bad."
The grand total of the donations raised will be announced during the postgame activities.
Brennaman said he plans on growing his hair back out to its usually fluffy state, unless the look fits him well.
"I plan on [growing it], unless I like it," Brennaman said. "Then so help me God."
Reds reliever Nick Masset made his third rehab appearance, pitching again Thursday night for Class A Dayton against Lansing. He threw one complete inning, allowing one hit and tossing 19 pitches total. He has been on the disabled list all season with a sprained right shoulder.
Saturday's game between the Reds and the Pirates is already sold out, marking the 11th sellout of the season after Friday's equal achievement.
Mark Clements is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.