Versatility has Renda in running for utility role

Versatility has Renda in running for utility role

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- It was the final play of Wednesday's Reds win over the Padres and bench candidate Tony Renda had to be perfect. Tony Cruz hit a two-out roller near the line toward third base, where Renda charged the ball. He made a barehanded grab-and-throw to first base in one fluid motion and nailed Cruz for the final out.

"It's kind of a do-or-die play," Renda said Friday. "I've gotten a couple of those this spring. It's one of the things we work on, running through the ball and throwing on the run. There's no part of the game that's not addressed at this level. You have to be prepared for every single play that comes at you. Especially at third base, the slow roller is one of them."

For someone trying to make the team in a utility role as a non-roster player, Renda has to show he can handle himself at each position.

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Last season for the Reds after his Aug. 2 callup, the 26-year-old Renda started 13 games at four positions -- second base, third base, left field and right field. He works out at multiple positions each day, including shortstop, and has even asked if he could try first base, just in case.

"[Renda] came up as a second baseman. We were the organization that made him more of a utility player so he could get in the lineup," Reds manager Bryan Price said. "But to see him play third base as he has, he's made a handful of those very similar nice plays, especially on that slow chopper that's been very impressive. If I can feel confident about Tony Renda at second base, but also third base or left field or center, those are things that add value."

The Reds are likely to carry five bench players, but could go with four if the team chooses to carry 13 pitchers. Renda is competing against Arismendy Alcantara, Ryan Raburn, Patrick Kivlehan, Desmond Jennings, Hernan Iribarren and Christian Walker.

Besides playing well defensively, Renda has been solid at the plate as he entered Friday batting .367/.472/.633 with one home run and three doubles.

Renda's long ball

"He's doing a nice job for himself with his hustle, his baseball acumen and the way he swings the bat," Price said. "It's been very impressive."

Renda batted .183 in 32 regular-season big league games in 2016 after he hit .311 combined at Double-A and Triple-A. He was one of the four players acquired from the Yankees in the December 2015 trade for Aroldis Chapman.

"Up to this point, I'm fairly happy with how I've been playing," Renda said of his spring. "Every day, I am just trying to make the most of it."

Renda is listed at 5-foot-8, but has never let his lack of size define him. He was a second-round pick by the Nationals in the 2012 Draft out of Cal.

"I never even worry about it. I just play the game," Renda said. "I kind of have that grinder label put on me. I like it. I play hard. There's a certain type of baseball that I play and it's 100 percent all the time. If I come off of the field after a game and I'm not dirty, there's a good chance I didn't do anything. I want to get after it."

Mark Sheldon has covered the Reds for MLB.com since 2006, and previously covered the Twins from 2001-05. Follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon and Facebook and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.