Raburn, at camp early, ready to fill any role
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Ryan Raburn has been in camp for the Indians for several days. A running joke around the complex is that the Cleveland utility man showed up early because pitchers were required to report ahead of position players.
Even Raburn quips that he is waiting to find out when his first mound session is scheduled.
"I've been asking them when I'm supposed to go out there," Raburn said with a smirk on Saturday. "They said, 'We're going to hold off and wait until later on in the spring. We don't want people out there getting scouting reports.'"
Raburn returns as a multi-faceted weapon for Cleveland, but emergency reliever -- a role he filled with one shutout inning in a blowout loss to the Tigers on Aug. 8 last year -- is not in the plans. What the Indians envision once again is a corner outfielder with the ability to handle a few infield spots, including some work at first base.
This spring, Raburn will get plenty of reps at first base, while assuming his usual role as the right-handed option for right field. While it is not expected to be a strict platoon, the Indians will likely use Raburn mainly against left-handed pitching and lefty-swinging David Murphy in right field against right-handers.
First base, which is Nick Swisher's spot, is just another role to add to the equation.
"It's just having one more position where you can get his bat in the lineup," Indians manager Terry Francona said of Raburn. "On a day game when somebody is tired, or when somebody is nicked up, that's a nice bat to have in there."
Last season, Raburn hit .272 overall with 16 home runs (the most in the big leagues among players with fewer than 300 plate appearances), 55 RBIs and a .901 OPS in 87 games. Against left-handed pitching, Raburn hit at a .308 clip with a 1.020 OPS. Down the stretch, though, Raburn was hindered by a variety of leg injuries.
Raburn said the offseason helped alleviate the issues.
"Man, it went from one leg to the other," said Raburn, who dealt with knee, ankle, foot and calf discomfort at different points. "Once one leg started feeling good, the other one would start feeling worse. Then that one would start feeling good, and the other one would start feeling worse.
"It was like, 'Lord have mercy.' It was just an accumulation of everything. That's the main thing for me, is I'm not feeling too bad right now."