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So far, Paul making strong case for Reds' roster spot

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Even after a solid second half for the Reds last season, Xavier Paul takes zero for granted. Paul has lived on the fringes of too many rosters to ever feel too comfortable in camp.

"Really, every Spring Training for me I pretty much came in with the mindset of trying to make a team," Paul said Saturday. "This is a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately business, unless you're under a five- or 10-year contract. For a guy going year-to-year, you just have to keep trying to have another good year."

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One of the smaller 2012 Reds transactions that paid off big, Paul batted .314 with a .379 on-base percentage in 55 games while in the fifth outfielder's role. As a pinch-hitter, he was 12-for-36 (.333) with one of his season's two home runs.

Paul, 28, spent the first half of last season at Triple-A in the Nationals organization, but he was never called up. He was released July 3 and signed by the Reds on July 12 and assigned to Triple-A Louisville. After hitting in all six games he played for Louisville, he was back in the Majors.

Whether he remains in the Majors this spring is not decided, but his skills are needed for the bench.

"He's a very good fit," Reds manager Dusty Baker said. "I think he's more of a corner man, and he gives me a left-handed bat off the bench. You try to have balance off the bench. I'm not saying he's on the team, but he's a front-runner. You want some speed. You want some pinch-hitters or some hitters that can hit for a pinch-hitter and not lose much."

Paul broke into the Majors with the Dodgers in 2009 but spent much of the year on the disabled list with fractures in his right ankle. He has split time between the big leagues and Minors almost every season since. In 2011, he was up the whole season for the Dodgers and then played 121 games for the Pirates.

This spring, Paul is batting .261 (6-for-23) after a 0-for-2 day against the Brewers on Saturday. His six runs scored lead the club, and his 12 games played are tied for the team lead.

"I feel good. So far, things have gone well," Paul said. "I'm actually feeling a lot better at the plate sooner than I have in the past."

Part of that feeling is attributed to taking more offseason swings than usual near his Slidell, La., home.

"I made sure that I did that," said Paul, who is out of Minor League options. "I need to try to find a way to get myself loose, stay loose and stay mentally ready for when Dusty calls my name."

Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Mark My Word, and follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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