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Paul takes advantage of steady playing time

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CLEVELAND -- When the season started, Xavier Paul wasn't just an extra outfielder on the Reds -- he was the fifth outfielder. That meant playing time was supposed to be sparse and his chances were expected primarily as a pinch-hitter.

Injuries to left fielder Ryan Ludwick and fourth outfielder Chris Heisey changed everything. Paul has started 24 games this season and is batting .270 in those games with 10 RBIs. He has two home runs and 16 RBIs overall in 40 games.

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"This is the first time I've had this much consistent playing time," Paul said on Wednesday. "I think it's been a little easier for me to maintain my rhythm and timing at the plate. It's been easier to stay in a groove more than when I'm predominantly pinch-hitting. If you have a bad night, it doesn't rest on your mind the next four or five days. You're confident about coming out the next night to make up for it."

Paul, who started again in left field vs. the Indians on Wednesday, was 3-for-4 with a two-run single during Tuesday's 8-2 win over Cleveland at Great American Ball Park.

"Unfortunately, we've had a few injuries that have given me more opportunity for playing time," said Paul, who was signed last July after being released by the Nationals. "I feel good that I've done a pretty good job of taking advantage of opportunity and doing what I can to help the team."

While the Reds have had contributions from players like Joey Votto and Brandon Phillips and great pitching of late, Paul's regular presence in the lineup hasn't hurt the club.

Cincinnati entered the night 21-3 in the games Paul has started.

"I hope it continues to go that way, but I don't want to say too much and jinx it," Paul said.

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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