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Baker slots Paul into lineup to keep him sharp

Baker slots Paul into lineup to keep him sharp

Baker slots Paul into lineup to keep him sharp

CINCINNATI -- Since the return of left fielder Ryan Ludwick on Aug. 12, Xavier Paul had started just one game and had five plate appearances for the Reds. That changed Sunday when he started in left field against the Brewers.

Paul received semi-regular playing time sharing left field with Derrick Robinson while both Ludwick and Chris Heisey were injured. He continued to see at-bats once Heisey returned. Playing more reduced his overall production, though, as he came into Sunday batting .167 over his previous 25 games, including 10 starts.

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"It hasn't been tough. I've pretty much slid back into that role I was in last year," Paul said. "Getting the start every blue moon just to stay sharp, I think it's necessary sometimes."

Paul has had clutch moments from the bench, including three pinch-hit home runs this season.

"He can be very important," Reds manager Dusty Baker said. "All the teams I've been on, you end up winning games off your bench. They either stop a losing streak or create or continue a long winning streak.

"He probably won't start in [the Reds' next series at] St. Louis, but he'll come off the bench big, I'm sure. He's going to be in the equation. Those 0-for-1's are tough, real tough. Most of the time, when those 0-for-1's come, you're probably facing one of the better pitchers on their team out of the bullpen -- like [Edward] Mujica or somebody like that. He's not going to be facing some middle reliever, unless the bases are loaded and we want to try to get runs in the middle part of the ballgame."

Baker started Jack Hannahan -- another bench player -- at third base on Saturday. Hannahan had two hits, including a double, and made a couple of nice defensive plays during the 6-3 win over the Brewers.

"You have to play them sometimes in order to keep them sharp," Baker said. "You can get four at-bats. That's why Hannahan played yesterday. In case I have to double switch, I don't want them to feel foreign on defense. You want them to feel confident."

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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