Renda going all out for Reds bench spot

GOODYEAR, AZ - MARCH 10: Tony Renda #49 of the Cincinnati Reds is tagged out by Alexi Amarista #2 of the Colorado Rockies while attempting to steal second base during the second inning at Goodyear Ballpark on March 10, 2017 in Goodyear, Arizona. (Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images)

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GOODYEAR, AZ - MARCH 10: Tony Renda #49 of the Cincinnati Reds is tagged out by Alexi Amarista #2 of the Colorado Rockies while attempting to steal second base during the second inning at Goodyear Ballpark on March 10, 2017 in Goodyear, Arizona. (Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images)

The Reds have bench spots to be filled, and the competition has been fierce yet friendly.

They have been boosted in the back halves of games this spring by Arismendy Alcantara, Tony Renda, Patrick Kivlehan, Desmond Jennings, Hernan Iribarren, Ryan Raburn and Zach Vincej, making manager Bryan Price’s decisions difficult.

The more experienced players in the hunt may not have the best numbers, but they have enough on their resumes to make up for it.

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Jennings is hitting .200 with a home run and sevens RBIs. Raburn, another veteran, is hitting at a .238 clip with two home runs and four RBIs.

“You have a body of work,” Price said. “Desmond has been banged up the last couple of years. That affects his ability to carry his normal work. Ryan Raburn is exactly who he is. I don’t thing spring numbers good or bad will be a barometer for what he can do for a club. He gives us an experienced bench. He handles velocity. He’s used to handling a team’s best relief pitcher late in a game. We need to have one guy like that on our bench.”

Renda and Iribarren showed their skills last season.

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Renda, an infielder, came to the Reds from the Yankees in the Aroldis Chapman trade in December 2015. They brought him to Cincinnati on Aug. 2 when Jay Bruce was traded and Jose Peraza was sent back to Louisville. He played in 32 games and hit .183 but showed versatility and speed.

“Getting a chance to see Iribarren and Renda last year gave me a taste of what I think they are capable of doing,” Price said. “That helps more than having a really good spring.”

But Renda is having a good spring. He is hitting .367 and has made some solid-to-spectacular plays in the field.

Renda’s problem is that the others competing for the job are showing what they can do as well. Combine that with Price’s knowledge of the veteran bench players and you see that even with good numbers the chances of making the team become smaller.

“Everybody wants it,” Renda said. “It creates a competitive environment but at the same time, we’re teammates. We’re friends. We hit together, throw together and improve our game together. The competitive drive is what you need in this game to get better. It’s a fun environment.”

Renda is humble about his success so far, trying not to oversell it or jinx himself.

“I’ve been able to capitalize on some mistakes and put some good swings on some balls,” he said.

Getting sent to the minor leagues out of spring training doesn’t signal the end of a player’s career. Seldom does a team go wire-to-wire with the original 25 players on their roster.

‘I don’t know who is going to make the team at this point in time with two weeks to go,” Price said. “I can tell you that those that don’t make it are our first line of defense.”

Still, Renda, with his competitive spirit, craves the trip home for opening day April 3 against the Phillies.

“My experience there last year was great,” he said. “I love the town, the fans, the city, everything. It’s where I want to play. I’ve always wanted to play against the best competition at the highest level. That’s in Cincinnati.

“We have two weeks here. I’m going to be playing my tail off to get to Cincinnati.”

The 5-foot-8, 179-pound Renda has played against the best at every level.

In his Hillsborough, California Little League he competed with Tyler Goedell, who was the first pick of Tampa Bay in the 2012 draft. At the University of California, Renda played against Gerritt Cole of Pittsburgh and Trevor Bauer of the Cleveland. Both were starting pitchers at UCLA in his freshman and sophomore years.

“You never accept mediocrity and you strive to be the best,” Renda said. “It is hard to say you’re the best on the team when you have Joey Votto and Zack Cozart, some really great ballplayers on this club but that comes with time.

“You have to believe that you’re the best at any given time. When you’re in the box, you’re the best guy for the job. When you’re out in the field, you want the ball hit to you because it’s an out. I believe whether you’re the best guy on the team or not, you better believe you are.”

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