When Brandon Phillips returned to Cincinnati on Friday for the first time since he was traded to the Atlanta Braves this past February, the second baseman was not happy to see a different Reds player wearing his No. 4, saying it felt like "a slap in my face" from his former employer of 11 years.
The player wearing No. 4 for the Reds was Scooter Gennett, who admitted he was given no choice in what number he wore when he joined the organization via a waiver claim at the end of March.
"When I came over, I didn't expect to get that number," Gennett explained to Zach Buchanan of the Cincinnati Enquirer. "It wasn't something that I picked. But unfortunately, that was my only option, what I was told."
Gennett apparently spent close to a month trying to change his number out of respect for Phillips, but because of MLB's Collective Bargaining Agreement it was nearly impossible.
Players are prohibited from changing numbers after a season begins - unless they change teams - but can do so if they follow one exception.
Player (or someone on his behalf) purchases the existing finished goods inventory of the apparel containing the Player's jersey number that is held on hand by the then-current authorized apparel licensee(s).
Gennett, who is earning $2.5 million this season, wasn't interested in making the exception.
"It’s kind of crazy," Gennett explained. "You think you have the ability to switch, but they make so many jerseys in the team shop to where I would have to pay for all those jerseys. I just don't have that available cash to be able to do that."
Gennett plans to make a request to change the number for next season and completely understands why Phillips, an all-time great of the Reds, would be frustrated about not having his number preserved.
"I think he's got a right to feel that way," Gennett said. "It sucks that I'm the one that's wearing it, because I respect everything he's done in his career and for the Reds. But it is what it is. I can't do anything about it."