Super Sub Raburn Needs Offensive Rebirth to Make Tribe’s Roster
During Spring Training the DTTWLN staff will profile and examine the coaches and players that make up and are vying to be part of the 2013 Cleveland Indians—A Team With A New Direction. Today, we examine one of the Spring Invitees with a chance to make the Tribe’s Opening Day roster.
By Mike Brandyberry
One man’s trash can be another man’s treasure is the old adage. In the case of Ryan Raburn, the Cleveland Indians are hoping the Detroit Tigers may have moved him to the curb a little too quickly.
Raburn, the Tigers’ long time utility man and super substitute, was not offered arbitration last fall by the Tigers and made a free agent after his worst Major League season in 2012. After three strong seasons with Detroit from 2009-11, Raburn hit only .171, with a home run and 12 runs batted in during the 2012 campagin in 66 games and 222 plate appearances.
At the beginning of the 2012 season, the right-handed hitting platoon player was slated to play both second base and right field against left-handed pitchers. However, by midseason with the Tigers and Raburn struggling, Detroit acquired Anibal Sanchez and Omar Infante from the Miami Marlins to strengthen their playoff push. Sanchez helped aid the starting rotation and Infante became a regular at second base. Once Detroit promoted prospect, Avisail Garcia to play right field, Raburn was phased out of playing time in the final two months of the season.
Now, Cleveland is giving Raburn a potential low-risk, high-reward opportunity to revitalize his career. Despite his disappointing 2012, Raburn is a career .256 hitter who hit between 14-16 home runs during the 2009-11 seasons. He will compete with Jason Giambi, Yan Gomes, Ezequiel Carrera, Ben Francisco, Tim Fedroff, Cord Phelps and Juan Diaz for potential bench positions.
With Mike Aviles—Indians Manager Terry Francona’s favorite utility player—it may appear Cleveland has little use or roster availability for a similar player in Raburn. With the signing of Michael Bourn, the outfield has quickly become very flexible and full with Drew Stubbs fighting for his own playing time. Stubbs could become the fourth outfielder and platoon player against left-handed pitching. However, since Francona does not have a true designated hitter on the roster and he plans to use Aviles to play often and let players rest by remaining in the lineup as the DH, the Tribe could need a fourth middle infield option. His flexibility could provide as a fourth middle infielder and fifth outfield option in just one roster spot. Raburn has a chance to fill both voids on the Tribe’s 25-man roster.
Still, Raburn’s chance to make the Indians’ Opening Day roster remain in his offensive production—namely against left-handed pitchers. In 2012, he hit .165 against southpaws, a major drop from the .274 in 2011. If Raburn can find that prowess against lefties and the power that came with it, he could not just be a find for the Tribe, but a treasure moving forward.
With Cleveland currently entering the 2013 season as a roster in transition, the bench battles remain as wide open as any roster competitions in baseball this spring. After the eight assumed starters, and only Aviles and catcher Lou Marson as locks for the bench, the Tribe’s offensive unit has two available spots.
For a non-roster player, and someone like Raburn looking to save their career, that’s quite a fortunate situation and opportunity.
Photo: Getty Images