GOODYEAR, AZ - FEBRUARY 18: Patrick Kivlehan #75 of the Cincinnati Reds poses for a portait during a MLB photo day at Goodyear Ballpark on February 18, 2017 in Goodyear, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Former football player looking to earn a roster spot for Reds

Patrick Kivlehan was a football player who played baseball on a lark at Rutgers University.

His favorite sport, football, wasn’t his best. After Kivlehan shelved his shoulder pads his senior year as a backup safety and special teams performer, the 23-year old picked up a glove for the first time in four years to play baseball.

“I got to a really slow start in baseball. I was probably the last guy on the team to get a hit,” Kivlehan said. “The guys there helped me and talked to me to keep it loose. I got hot and stayed hot. It was a blast and fun. We didn’t worry about stats. We were having fun and trying to win games.”

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Kivlehan won the Big East Triple Crown in 2012 with a .399 average, 14 home runs and 50 RBI in all games. It was good enough for the Seattle Mariners to make the third baseman their fourth-round pick in the 2012 draft.

The success carried over with Everett in Class A. Kivlehan hit .301 in 72 games with a league-leading 12 home runs and 52 RBI.

The organization asked him to move to first base when they chose third baseman D.J. Peterson in the first round in 2013. The Mariners signed third baseman Kyle Seager to a long-term contract in 2015. The ripple effect blocked Kivlehan. Peterson was moved to first and Kivlehan went to the outfield to improve his chances of advancing.

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When the numbers caught up to him and the options were fewer, Kivlehan was traded to the Texas Rangers. A year later he was traded back to the Mariners but ran out of options. San Diego picked him up on waivers last August. Kivlehan played in his first Major League game on Aug. 20. He started in left against Arizona and had two hits.

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The Reds claimed him on waivers on Sept. 28 after five games in the big leagues. He played in three games for Cincinnati.

The Reds are looking to fill out a versatile bench. Kivlehan is in a competition with Hernan Iribarren, Arismendy Alcantara, Ryan Raburn, Tony Renda and Desmond Jennings for two, maybe three open spots.

“I had to re introduce myself this spring,” Kivlehan said. “I wanted to show them I could play third. There is tough competition here. There are a ton of guys that can do a lot of different things.”

Kivlehan is off to a good start, hitting .467 in eight games with a hit in each of his last four games. He has a home run and four RBIs.

“So far so good,” Kivlehan said. “It’s still early. I’ve got a lot left to prove.”

Kivlehan’s turned in some good plays at third.

“Kivlehan was perfectly fine at third (with the Mariners),” Bryan Price said. ‘He didn’t leave third because the feeling was he couldn’t play it. I’m pleasantly surprised at how well he’s played the position. It’s an eye-opening spring training for sure. It is our first real look at him live.”

The Reds had some video on him when they made the waiver claim but not a lot of live game action.

“He’s athletic with big power,” Price said. “That’s one thing we did see when we first claimed him. We had some video on him where he hit some absolute bombs. Maybe he just needs to find a home like (Adam) Duvall.”

The competition for bench spot have proven to be tight so far.

“Awesome. It’s been great, rotation, bullpen, bench,” Price said. ‘There is some great competition. … It’s fun to watch.”

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