Reds interested in Marlon Byrd and Antonio Bastardo

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Cincinnati is going to be without second baseman Brandon Phillips (thumb) and first baseman Joey Votto (quad) for another month at least, so to stay in contention in a crowded National League Central race upgrades will probably have to be made at the July 31 deadline. And the hunt has already begun.

Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com reports that the Reds have expressed interest in acquiring outfielder Marlon Byrd and left-handed reliever Antonio Bastardo from the Phillies, who are expected to be one of the most active sellers later this month.

Byrd, 36, is batting .264/.317/.476 with 18 home runs and 54 RBI in 96 games this season for Philadelphia. He signed a two-year, $16 million contract over the winter that includes an $8 million vesting option for 2016.

Bastardo, 28, has a 3.38 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, and 51/24 K/BB ratio in 42 2/3 innings this season out of the Phillies’ bullpen. He’d fill the Reds’ need in lefty relief with Sean Marshall (shoulder) done for the year.

Bastardo is making $2 million this season and will be arbitration-eligible for the final time in 2015.

Pirates pitcher Steven Brault sang the National Anthem last night

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Pittsburgh Pirates swingman Steven Brault has a 4.38 ERA in 19 games this year. He also has a music degree and is a professional singer on the side of his baseball gig. He didn’t get into last night’s game against the Brewers as a pitcher, but he did get to use his singing skills.

Specifically, Brault got to sing the National Anthem. And he did an OK job of it too. He’s not Whitney Houston or anything, but he did what all Anthem singers who are not as gifted as Whitney Houston was should do: he kept it straight and businesslike, avoiding unnecessary flourishes:

It’s march, dang it, not a ballad, and it should be treated as such. Unless of course you’re Whitney Houston.