Major League Baseball
Raburn, Tigers ready to manufacture success
LAKELAND - The grind of a 162-game Major League baseball season is much like the assembly lines of Detroit's auto manufacturing industry. Lead off hitter, leads to line drive hitter, leads to power hitter. Transmissions lead to drive shafts, lead to engines. Relief specialist leads to set-up man, leads to closer. Each player shows up to work each day with a certain job to perform as each V-6 victory is rolled down the line. For the past three seasons, the player in the role of the super utility man for the Detroit Tigers has been Durant High's Ryan Raburn.Since breaking in for good with the Detroit Tigers in 2007, Raburn has logged time at first, second and third, and all three outfield positions. "Whatever gets me in the box to get a hit and help this team, that's all I want to play," said the Tampa native. As big league rosters have become increasingly specialized over the last decade or so, the role of a super utility man has become a vital commodity for most teams. As terms like 'left-handed power bat off the bench' and 'designated pinch-runner' have come into vogue, the flexibility of a player to man multiple positions throughout the season has become a valued resource. Raburn values his place with the Tigers, as well. "I like this organization. I like my role in this organization. I'd like to stay here no matter where they are playing me," Raburn explained. So far, Raburn has been successful in that role. In 2009, he batted .291 with 16 home runs and 45 runs batted in over 291 plate appearances while playing six different positions on defense. So how does a player prepare for each game when he isn't certain which glove he'll need out in the field? "I prepare myself like I do every year. Skip (Jim Leyland) is pretty good at putting me at different situations so I just have to prepare myself and give myself the best opportunity to be successful in whatever situation he puts me in," Raburn said. And so far this spring, the results have been promising: a .425 batting average along with a .650 slugging and .540 on-base percentages. "I'm just carrying over from what I changed last year. (Tigers hitting coach Lloyd) McClendon and I worked pretty hard last year and its just carryover. I feel pretty comfortable right now so hopefully that will carry over into the year," he said. It also might have to do with some home cooking. Raburn was selected in the fifth round of the 2001 draft by the Tigers out of Durant High School. He grew up in Plant City, just a short trip down I-4 from the Tigers' spring training camp. "That extra month and a half around spring training is awesome to be able to come home and sleep in my own bed for a little bit longer."