Weiss: Raburn just 'a good hitter, period'

May 17th, 2016

ST. LOUIS -- Outfielder Ryan Raburn's .258 Spring Training batting average after he joined the Rockies in early March didn't cause excitement, but manager Walt Weiss was paying attention to the important stuff beyond that single stat.

The right-handed-hitting Raburn earned an important part-time role through the quality of his at-bats. Raburn took a .353 batting average and .414 on-base percentage plus five home runs in 58 plate appearances into Tuesday night's start against the Cardinals at Busch Stadium. But Raburn's biggest contribution has been as a pinch-hitter -- 5-for-13 (.385) with a .467 OBP and two homers.

On Sunday, Raburn homered off Mets righty Jim Henderson in the bottom of the seventh to give the Rockies their fourth straight victory -- 4-3. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, it was the first behind-to-ahead, pinch-hit homer in baseball this season.

"They told me pretty much if it's going to be a big situation -- guys on base, the run's going to matter -- the majority of time it's going to be me up there," Raburn said.

As his career progressed between the Tigers (2004, 2007-12) and the Indians (2013-15), Raburn was used mostly against left-handed pitching. But after waiting until just after Spring Training started to sign with the Rockies, Raburn proved he is more than a strict platoon player. Weiss started him against Cards lefty Jaime Garcia Tuesday, but he has been using Raburn at key times regardless of who's throwing.

Raburn entered Tuesday hitting .364 off lefties, but he was batting .345 against righties.

"He's maybe you could say elite against left-handed pitching -- his numbers suggest that -- but I just think he's a good hitter, period," Weiss said. "I saw him all spring take good at-bats against right-handed pitching. He's done the same during the season. He's got a great approach to the big part of the field against righties. When he's on the bench, I look to him as our bullet, regardless if it's against righties or lefties."

Raburn once was dependent on his quick hands. But Alan Zinter, the Padres' hitting coach who was the Indians' Minor League hitting coordinator when Raburn joined that team, helped him develop a leg kick that brought him balance and leg drive, and Indians hitting coach Ty Van Burkleo helped him maintain the feel.

Maturity also helped Raburn overcome a natural tendency -- but often the bane of a part-time player's existence -- to worry about his stats.

"Everybody sees it -- we're all glancing up there at the scoreboard," Raburn said. "I've always wondered how much better hitters would be if they didn't have those numbers up there. People wouldn't know if you were hitting .100 or .500. You'd take that same approach up there.

"I try to block that out. The last few years, I'm not chasing stats, chasing numbers, chasing the results."