Phillips’ knee still a bit swollen, so he’ll aim for Wednesday return

Braves second baseman Brandon Phillips, shown getting a fist bump from first-base coach Eddie Perez in a game last week, has missed consecutive starts for a right knee contusion but hopes to play Wednesday. (Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com)

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Braves second baseman Brandon Phillips, shown getting a fist bump from first-base coach Eddie Perez in a game last week, has missed consecutive starts for a right knee contusion but hopes to play Wednesday. (Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com)

ANAHEIM – Brandon Phillips’ right knee was better but still sore and a bit swollen Tuesday, so the Braves second baseman was out of the lineup against the Angels for the second night in a row.

“He’s still a little sore, so we’ll just kind of take it day to day, see where he’s at tomorrow,” manager Brian Snitker said before batting practice Tuesday. “I said I hoped he’d be available today, but it’s still a little sore. We’ve got other options, so just give him another day.”

Jace Peterson made his second consecutive start at second base and Danny Santana served in the designated hitter role Tuesday. Snitker had planned to use Phillips in the DH role Tuesday if he was ready.

Phillips sustained a right knee contusion when struck by a foul tip Sunday at San Francisco.

“It’s a little sore today, but I should be in there (Wednesday),” he said before batting practice Tuesday. “Right now I’m just trying to give it a little extra time to make sure the swelling in my knee goes down a little bit more, and I think I’ll be ready to go.”

Phillips left Sunday’s game after four innings and said after that game he hoped he’d be ready to play in Monday’s series opener at Anaheim. But that was before the team flight to Anaheim, the pressurized plane causing the knee to swell more than he’d expected.

“(Monday) it was real swollen. I told them I thought I was going to be able to play, but then next thing you know TP (bench coach Terry Pendleton) called me on the phone and asked me how I was looking after being on the plane, and I said, well, it’s kind of looking like Sherman Klump right now, it’s kind of swollen. And they just wanted to give me an extra day, and then today the swelling went down a little bit, but I just can’t put all my weight on my back leg.”

Phillips stresses his back leg more than most hitters do with the torque of his swing, which sometimes leaves him on one knee at the end of a particularly vigorous cut. He said he was available to pinch-hit Tuesday, though Snitker said they would probably use him only if they had to.

“I can do that right now if they want me to,” Phillips said. “I could have did that (Monday) as long as it’s for an at-bat and don’t try to do too much and go out there and try to play defense or something. But I can go out there and pick the bat up and try to get the game-winning hit or something. I can do that.”

Still, he would prefer not to ease back into things as a DH Wednesday in the interleague series finale at Angel Stadium. He wants to be at his position if he plays.

“I hope I’m playing defense,” he said. “I want to play the whole thing. My DH days – that’s when I get real old.”

The 35-year-old former Reds star has one more game to get back in the lineup at Anaheim, then the Braves are off Thursday before opening a weekend series Friday in Cincinnati.

The Reds traded Phillips a few days before spring training and are paying $13 million of his $14 million salary in 2017, the last year of his contract before free agency. The rebuilding Reds had younger players they wanted to play and were eager to move Phillips, who has been everything the Braves hoped he would be, batting .301 with a .351 on-base percentage, three homers and seven stolen bases in 44 games while playing solid defense.

This despite missing a few games for nagging injuries and being slowed for a few weeks by a groin injury.

“To tell you the truth, early in my career I didn’t get hurt at all. So this is all new to me, all the freak accidents, hitting myself in the knee – I never did that before. I got a groin injury; that’s the first time that ever happened. I don’t know if my body’s starting to get kind of old a little bit, but I’m still here and I haven’t been on the DL. I’m going to try to play through it and hopefully I can get in the lineup tomorrow.”

Snitker said the DL possibility had not been discussed regarding Phillips’ sore knee.

“No, this is just a ‘sore’ thing,” Snitker said. “(Monday) night his spikes were on and he was ready to go if need be. So if he needs to play he’s available, we’ll just try to stay away from him another day.”