Ryan Raburn showed Thursday night why he was always one of manager Jim Leyland‘s favorites when he played for the Detroit Tigers.
Raburn was pitching for the Cleveland Indians against Leyland’s Tigers Thursday in the final game of a four-game series. The Tigers won 10-3 to sweep the four-game series from Cleveland.
In the top of the ninth inning, Indians manager Terry Francona, desperate for a fresh arm after losing a 14-inning affair on Wednesday, went with Raburn, a utility player, who was admirable in pitching a perfect inning. He used a 89-mph pitch to fan Detroit’s Matt Tuiasosopo.
It was Raburn’s first MLB pitching appearance. Ironically, it brought a smile to the manager’s face in the other dugout.
Leyland was always among Raburn’s top defenders in Detroit. He used the utility player extensively despite hard criticism from the media mainly because of Raburn’s mediocre batting averages. Raburn left the Tigers during the offseason, but Leyland recently reminded the Tigers’ media how much he respected the former Detroit utility player.
However, Raburn has collected 13 home runs and 38 RBIs in 186 at bats during 68 games this season. The Indians showed how much they like the utility player by signing him to a two-year extension earlier in the week.
Raburn was Leyland’s type of player because he could use him almost everywhere. Now Leyland’s favorite utility player is Don Kelly, who, ironically, pitched briefly in relief for the Tigers in one game during the 2011 season. He and Raburn have brought new meaning to the word utility.