Brandon Phillips (hammy) returns to Reds’ starting lineup

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Because of left hamstring cramps, Reds second baseman Brandon Phillips hasn’t appeared in a game since signing his six-year, $72.5 million contract extension early last week. But that will change Sunday in the nation’s capital.

According to the Reds’ official Twitter account, Phillips is batting leadoff and starting at second base this afternoon against the first-place Nationals.

Phillips, 30, is off to a 4-for-16 (.250) start this year.

He batted .300/.353/.457 with 18 home runs, 82 RBI and 14 steals last season while playing his usual brand of elite defense at second base.

Masahiro Tanaka to throw off a mound this weekend

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Earlier this month Yankees starter Masahiro Tanaka strained both of his hamstrings while running the bases in an interleague game against the Mets and was sent to the 10-day DL. Today it was announced that the beginning of the end of most DL stints for pitchers — throwing off of a mound — is in Tanaka’s immediate future.

Tanaka is scheduled to throw off a mound Sunday, which will be his first real (well, fake real) pitching action since the June 9th injury. Assuming the session goes well, Tanaka is expected to return to the Yankees’ starting rotation sometime in early-to-mid July. With the All-Star break coming the week of July 16, it would not be hard to imagine the Yankees giving him a few extra days to get right.

Tanaka is 7-2 with a 4.58 ERA and a K/BB ratio of 73/19 in 72.2 innings on the season.