Ryan Raburn was a long shot to make the Cleveland Indians 25-man roster when he singed a minor league contract with a spring training invitation back in mid-January. It was seen more as depth acquisition with little to no risk on the part of the Indians. If Raburn didn’t perform well enough to make the big league club, he could go to Triple Columbus or take a release and try to find work elsewhere. It’s safe to say that so far, things have worked out well for both the Indians and Raburn.
During his seven-year tenure with the Detroit Tigers, Raburn was a solid contributor year in and year out posting a triple slash line of .25/.311/.430 and even posting an OPS+ of 130 in 2009. He also chipped in 54 home runs and 216 RBI while serving as one of the team’s primary outfielders and utility infielder. He had also enjoyed modest success against the Indians hitting .279/.315/.455 in 54 games. Unfortunately for Raburn, a disastrous 2012 season that saw him post the worst numbers since his debut season, .171/.226/.254, signaled the end of his time as a Tiger.
Where the Tigers saw a player of diminishing skill, the Indians saw opportunity in a player who needed a change of scenery. Offered the chance to compete for a spot on the every day roster as a fourth outfielder/utility man, Raburn excelled during Cactus League play hitting .341/.463/.795 with 5 homers and 12 RBI in 54 plate appearances. It was the type of performance that was too hard to ignore. In addition to Raburn’s versatility, his experience from spending seven seasons in Detroit was also viewed as a positive.
Armed with a second chance, Raburn is making the most of the opportunity he has been given. After getting off to a slow start while playing sparingly in 13 games to start the year, Raburn’s story looked as if it might be coming to an end. However, thanks to an injury by Michael Bourn and unwavering confidence from Terry Francona, Raburn has turned things around in a big way over the last three games.
During the Tribe’s current three game winning streak that has seen them outscore the opposition by a total score of 39-5, Raburn has been the catalyst leading the charge. He has posted an inhuman .846 (11 for 13) with 4 home runs and 9 RBI. He has raised his average 150 points and for the year is now hitting .364/.407/.655. There’s being hot at the plate and then there’s what Ryan Raburn is doing right now.
Obviously, this isn’t a pace that Raburn will be able to maintain. He will eventually regress back to the mean. The only questions left to answer though are how long can he keep this going and is he a threat to steal playing time from one of either Drew Stubbs, Jason Kipnis, or Lonnie Chisenhall once Michael Bourn returns from his hand injury? It remains to be seen how Francona will choose to handle the situation, but one has to believe he will ride the hot hand as long as he can. The most likely scenario will most likely find Raburn playing more but also moving around the diamond and spelling any number of different players.
However this impressive hot streak ends, hopefully not any time soon, it has been fun to watch and has also served as a great story of a veteran player looking for a shot at redemption. Mission accomplished for Ryan Raburn.