CLEVELAND: Maybe a bench player’s most difficult task is to allow himself to fail.
A hitter who receives four at-bats one day and doesn’t see the plate the rest of the week has trouble keeping himself from trying to hit five-run homers or getting four hits in two at-bats. Of course, those achievements are impossible, and that’s the point.
“You can’t control where the ball is going to land after you hit it,” Indians utility player Ryan Raburn said Monday, after being named American League Player of the Week.
“The hardest ball I hit last night was caught,” he said. “One of the toughest things to do is stay on an even keel. I used to have a problem with that. If I didn’t get a hit, I’d immediately try to figure out why.”
Raburn didn’t have to be concerned with failure last week, when he batted .591 (13-for-22) with one double, four home runs, nine RBI and five runs in five games.
He led all major-leaguers for the week in slugging percentage (1.182) and total bases (26) and was tied for the lead in on-base percentage (.591).
“You can’t just look at tools,” manager Terry Francona said. “That’s why you see veterans handling it better.”
Raburn isn’t the typical utility player, even though he plays second base and two outfield positions. There have been times in his career when he has crashed the regular lineup.
Last year, he broke camp as the Detroit Tigers’ everyday second baseman, but a .171 batting average made him expendable to the organization, which released him at season’s end.
“I think I needed a change of scenery,” said Raburn, who until 2012 had been a respectable hitter. “You have to forget the past, have fun and play the game. I forgot how much fun this game is. Even if I don’t get a hit this week, I can have fun.”
No member of the Tribe had won the league’s Player of the Week award since April 11, 2011, when Asdrubal Cabrera was so honored.
“I think it’s pretty cool,” Francona said. “Ryan is a role player — or whatever you want to say — who can come in and make an impact. This gives me a platform to brag about it. And nationally people can read about it.”
Sheldon Ocker can be reached at email@example.com. Read the Indians blog at http://www.ohio.com/indians. Follow him on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/SheldonOckerABJ and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.