OAKLAND -- By putting Ryan Raburn in the Opening Day lineup against A's right-hander Sonny Gray, Indians manager Terry Francona provided a glimpse into how the utility man might be used this season. Raburn might be graduating from his part-time duties.
"People look at him as a role player," Francona said earlier this week. "I don't know that that necessarily has to be the case. He's got some thump in that bat."
Throughout last season, Raburn was used primarily against left-handed pitching off the bench for Cleveland. He excelled in that role and became an offensive force in his limited plate appearances. At least for the beginning of this year, Raburn appears to have earned more at-bats in the eyes of Francona.
Raburn enjoys knowing he might be in the lineup more often than not.
"I appreciate it," Raburn said. "Everybody wants to play. The more opportunities I get, of course I'm grateful for it. My biggest thing is just being able to contribute and help the ballclub."
Raburn was originally slotted into Tuesday's lineup against the A's as the designated hitter for the second straight game. After that contest was postponed due to rain, Francona altered the order and put Raburn in the fifth spot for Game 1 of Wednesday's split doubleheader as the Tribe's left fielder.
In 86 games for Cleveland last season, the 32-year-old Raburn hit .272 with 16 home runs, 55 RBIs and a team-leading .901 OPS. His 16 home runs were the most in the Major Leagues among hitters with fewer than 300 plate appearances. Against lefty pitching, Raburn posted a 1.020 OPS, which ranked fifth in the American League among batters with at least 100 plate appearances against southpaws.
Even when he has filled a reserve role, Raburn said he tries to prepare like an everyday player.
"I think the best way to do it is accept it when I'm a role guy," Raburn said. "You have to do all the little things that are asked of you. But me and [Mike Aviles] talk about it all the time, that the mentality is we're preparing ourselves to play 162 games."