CHICAGO -- Jonathan Broxton's transition to Reds reliever since being acquired at the July 31 Trade Deadline has been easier in the clubhouse than on the mound so far.
Broxton has allowed two earned runs in each of his last two outings, each of which lasted just two-thirds of an inning. He's also gone 1-1 with a 9.00 ERA in five appearances since coming over from the Royals, with opponents hitting .353 off him. Broxton was the Kansas City closer, saving 23 games in 27 opportunities, but the Reds are using him as setup man for fireballing closer Aroldis Chapman.
Manager Dusty Baker had to call on Chapman for a third straight day in Sunday's 3-0 win over the Cubs, as Broxton wasn't available.
"We didn't really want to go to Chapman today, third day in a row, since we have an off-day [Monday], but he said he was feeling great and we didn't have Big Broxton today. He was a little sore," Baker said.
Broxton, for his part, chose to dwell on his greater mound struggles when asked about how his arm felt before the game.
"I was having a good year at the start [in Kansas City], and I get over here and just made some key bad pitches that cost us some runs," the 6-foot-4, 300-pound Broxton said. "In the two outings I did have a bad one, we didn't win one and the other one we won. It's always special when you have Chapman coming in behind you. He can get you out of a lot of stuff."
Broxton added that he hasn't felt any added pressure being the Reds' big Deadline acquisition.
"We've got a good team over here," he said. "The locker room's great. Everybody in here's welcomed me with open arms and I'm just trying to help out at much as I can. I'm trying to help us win a pennant and move on from there."
As for his once-dominant fastball, which helped Broxton record 84 saves over parts of six seasons with the Dodgers, the hard-throwing right-hander is now taking a somewhat different approach to getting outs. Broxton used to approach triple digits on the radar gun, like Chapman, but he said that arthroscopic elbow surgery last September to remove a bone spur and loose cartilage took a few miles per hour off his heater.
"I can't complain," Broxton said. "I'm just going out there and trying to get quick outs. That's my main focus right now. I've got a couple years in [at this level] and had a year where I had over 100 strikeouts out of the bullpen. I'm just trying to get outs as fast as I can right now, so I can save all the bullets I can."
Bruce returns to lineup for finale, goes deep
CHICAGO -- Jay Bruce was back in the starting lineup on Sunday against the Cubs after sitting out the last two games while dealing with a cold streak at the plate.
The days off appeared to be just what the slugger needed, as Bruce hit his 22nd home run, a two-run shot, in the fifth to help the Reds take the finale, 3-0.
After going 0-for-4 with three strikeouts on Thursday, manager Dusty Baker had opted to sit Bruce for the past two games -- both Cincinnati victories.
"I'll just do what I can to help out," Bruce said before Sunday's game. "We've played good ball the last couple games and I'm just going to do what I can, do what I know I can do and just be prepared and see what happens."
As for the benching, Bruce said he had no problem with Baker's logic. He was hitless in his previous 13 at-bats, striking out seven times, before Sunday's blast.
"It's tough, but the bottom line is I wasn't getting the job done," said the 25-year-old Bruce, a two-time All-Star who has 22 home runs and 69 RBIs. "I think it was as much that he wanted me to clear my head a little bit. It is what it is. I'm a professional, and this is a Major League baseball team and I completely understand."
The left-handed hitting Bruce came into Sunday's game batting just .211 with 40 strikeouts against lefties this season. The Cubs started a southpaw, Brooks Raley. However, Bruce knows from breaking out of past slumps that having one good at-bat or one good game can not only snap a slide, but start a hot streak.
"Absolutely [it can], and Dusty does a pretty good job of recognizing when you need a day or two [off]," Bruce said. "He tries to really juggle that as well as he can, and he does a good job of it."
Phillips in groove with lumber at opportune time
CHICAGO -- Just how good are things going at the plate lately for Reds second baseman Brandon Phillips?
Well, he picked up key base hits in the eighth and ninth innings of Saturday's 4-2 win over the Cubs, despite barely seeing the ball after it left the pitcher's hand because of the late afternoon shadows at Wrigley Field.
His single in the eighth was big, as it came with the Reds trailing, 2-1, and Drew Stubbs on second base with no outs. Phillips, who had already doubled and scored Cincinnati's first run, appeared to just throw his bat out at the ball and flick it into the outfield.
He and Stubbs then scored on Ryan Ludwick's double into left field to put the Reds on top, 3-2, and clear the path to a comeback victory.
"I don't know how I did it, but I did it," said Phillips, who was 8-for-15 with three doubles and four runs scored in the first three games of this series. "I was just going out there trying to do my job and move [Stubbs] over, but I was like, 'Man, I cannot see the ball.'
"I couldn't see it. I tried to bunt it and I couldn't bunt it, so I was like, 'Let me just touch the ball and try to put it in play and see if something happens.' I ended up getting on base with a base hit, and it was very surprising."
In the ninth, Phillips did virtually the same thing for another single off Cubs reliever Alberto Cabrera.
Whatever approach Phillips has taken of late has worked. The second baseman had struggled a little following a five-game absence because of a calf strain. Phillips said that one at-bat against Brewers reliever John Axford in Milwaukee last week really helped him get his stroke back. Now, he's feeling good at the plate.
"I got my rhythm back," Phillips said. "It was all about timing. It was all about getting my timing back. I felt good again and felt like my timing was back to normal, and hopefully I can keep on swinging the bat like I've been doing."
Since the All-Star break, Phillips has been red-hot with the lumber, hitting .362 entering Sunday, with nine doubles, three home runs and 15 RBIs.
Scott Rolen said his sore and stiff lower back was steadily improving, but it wasn't good enough to play in Sunday's finale at Wrigley Field.
Rolen woke up on Thursday in Chicago and could barely move, but said he could walk "fairly normally" on Sunday. He's going through therapy sessions to alleviate the pain and hopes Monday's off-day will also help him return sooner. He's listed as day to day.
"I haven't been moving well enough the past couple days to do much of anything," Rolen said. "I've just been doing some therapy stuff, so it's just a time issue. I just need to get the time in [and let it heal]."
Brian Hedger is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.