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Indians notebook: Ryan Raburn provides valuable support off bench

CLEVELAND: How productive has Ryan Raburn been for the Indians?

He hit his 11th home run of the season Friday night to win the game in the 11th inning. He also has 31 RBI.

But how do you put those numbers in perspective, inasmuch as Raburn has received only 161 at-bats, compared to more than 300 for the Tribe’s everyday players.

Raburn comes off the bench. That means for whatever reason, he falls short of being a regular. But there are bench players and there are bench players.

“It’s overlooked how important those players are,” manager Terry Francona said Saturday, speaking of reserves who make an impact. “Look at day-game wins and losses, and day-game energy. I think that’s telling.”

Bench players often fill in when the club plays a day game after a night game or on Sundays.

Because they can hit and practically cover every defensive position between them, Mike Aviles and Raburn play more often.

“When somebody gets nicked up, I’m content to play Raburn and Aviles. It helps them and it helps us,” Francona said.

The best reserves often think they are good enough to be regulars but find a way to suppress their egos, allowing them to be comfortable coming off the bench.

“I think Mike thinks of himself as an everyday player,” Francona said.

“So do I. But every great team has guys who can play every day but don’t.”

So what do Raburn’s numbers mean? If he received 550 at-bats, his home run total projects to 38 and his RBI total projects to 106. Make of that what you will.

WHEN PLAYERS LISTEN – Every season, as the trading deadline draws near, gossip is rampant about potential deals, and the media isn’t shy about naming players whom they think are about to be moved.

According to conventional wisdom, some players become upset and distracted when they think their immediate future is uncertain. Francona confirms that and tries to keep his players’ minds from wandering.

“Lonnie Chisenhall’s name was on ESPN,” he said. “It was Lonnie for Matt Garza. I saw Lonnie actually watching this on TV one day and went up to him and told him, ‘You’re not going anywhere.’ There are times when I can’t say anything, because the rumor is true.”

IT’S ONLY TEMPORARY? – In his past nine appearances, Joe Smith has given up seven earned runs and 11 hits in 6⅔ innings.

That includes giving up two runs in the eighth Friday, enabling the Rangers to tie the score 8-8 and send the game into extra innings, when the Tribe eventually won 11-8.

Francona said there is nothing fundamentally wrong with Smith.

“He walked a couple of guys and he made a bad 0-and-2 pitch [Friday night],” the manager said. “Nothing else. He’s about as dependable as it gets.

“He usually doesn’t walk guys, and he keeps the ball down, so you have to bunch hits against him, and that’s not easy to do.”

BIG STEP – Josh Tomlin took a major step toward recovery from elbow reconstruction surgery by taking the mound for the Arizona League Indians.

Working one inning, he gave up one hit and struck out one.

Tomlin underwent his surgical procedure on Aug. 12 of last year. He is not expected to pitch in the big leagues this year, but his initial outing in Arizona might be an indicator that he could be ready to return to Cleveland some time in September.

FARM FACTS – T.J. House gave up one run and six hits in five innings, as Columbus defeated Durham 3-2. …. Jordan Smith homered, tripled and singled twice, driving in two runs in Carolina’s 7-2 win over Winston-Salem. Nick Pasquale (3-6, 4.31 ERA) gave up one unearned run and three hits in seven innings. ... Jorge Martinez hit a grand slam in Lake County’s 7-4 loss to South Bend. ... Nellie Rodriguez hit his sixth home run of the year and doubled, driving in two runs, as Mahoning Valley lost 10-3 to Batavia.

— Sheldon Ocker


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