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Reds hope Iribarren is a late bloomer

Versatile lefty hitter has batted .300 in 12 Minor League seasons
MLB.com @m_sheldon

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Hernan Iribarren stands out a little in a young-ish Reds clubhouse. He's already sprouting gray hair at the ripe old age of 32. Yet, Iribarren has just 48 games of Major League experience, with half of those coming as a September callup for the Reds last season.

But Iribarren made the most of that big league exposure -- his first in seven years since his stints with the Brewers during parts of the 2008 and '09 seasons. He batted .311 (14-for-45) for Cincinnati, including .455 (5-for-11) as a pinch-hitter. That has put the left-handed hitter squarely in the middle of the competition for one of the open bench spots this spring.

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Hernan Iribarren stands out a little in a young-ish Reds clubhouse. He's already sprouting gray hair at the ripe old age of 32. Yet, Iribarren has just 48 games of Major League experience, with half of those coming as a September callup for the Reds last season.

But Iribarren made the most of that big league exposure -- his first in seven years since his stints with the Brewers during parts of the 2008 and '09 seasons. He batted .311 (14-for-45) for Cincinnati, including .455 (5-for-11) as a pinch-hitter. That has put the left-handed hitter squarely in the middle of the competition for one of the open bench spots this spring.

"That was a big opportunity for me, and I really took advantage of it. I came in off of the bench and gave the team good at-bats," Iribarren said.

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If the Reds go with a five-man bench, it's likely that three of those spots are already spoken for among backup catcher Tucker Barnhart and non-roster invites Desmond Jennings and Ryan Raburn, who were signed as free agents just before the start of camp. Iribarren is also a non-roster player, because he was sent outright to Triple-A Louisville after the season. He is versatile and can play second base, first base, third base and the outfield.

While at Louisville last season before his September promotion, Iribarren hit .327 and won the International League batting title.

"We saw performance in September," Reds manager Bryan Price said. "He was so highly thought of in our organization as a makeup guy. He's multi-positional. We know his best position is second and third.

"But honestly, he is comfortable, a more experienced player giving us quality pinch-hit at-bats. He hits left-handed. He still runs well enough. And he's been terrific in helping our younger players. Even though he isn't a veteran with Major League service time, he is a veteran [professional], and he's helped a lot of our younger players continue to develop. There are a lot of things that bode in his favor, I think, in being able to make the club."

Price is hoping that Iribarren, who is a career .303/.359/.393 hitter over 1,387 games in the Minors, is a late-bloomer type of player that can help the team.

"We're hoping to get the best of him a little bit later in his career than most," Price said.

This spring, Iribarren is batting .500 (6-for-12) after he went 1-for-2 as the starting third baseman during Thursday's 6-2 win vs. the Cubs. He did commit a first-inning throwing error to first base on a Kris Bryant grounder.

"It would mean the world for me," Iribarren said about potentially making the team out of camp. "I'm faithful and praying all day that God will keep me healthy all Spring Training. I know if I'm healthy and perform, I have a good chance to make the team."

Mark Sheldon has covered the Reds for MLB.com since 2006, and previously covered the Twins from 2001-05. Follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon and Facebook and listen to his podcast.

Cincinnati Reds, Hernan Iribarren