January 21st, 2013

Ryan Raburn signs minor-league deal with Cleveland

Ryan Raburn robs Michael Young of a home run. (AP)By now, you’ve probably heard this, but it became official on Monday: Ryan Raburn is going to try to stay in the American League Central, signing with the Indians on a minor-league contract that includes an invitation to Spring Training with the big league club. My MLB.com counterpart in Cleveland, Jordan Bastian, has the details in his story.

From the Tigers standpoint, it really doesn’t make an impact. Detroit parted ways with the decision to not tender him a contract at the end of November. The Tigers weren’t going to bring him back on a minor-league deal, even though they’re looking for a right-handed bat to provide a presence against left-handed pitchers. The opportunities pretty well ran out last summer.

It would be nonetheless interesting if Raburn makes the Tribe roster and gets to face his old team, even if it’s a reserve role like the Indians are seeking at second and third base. When you look at some of the other names in camp that Bastian mentions, it’s a very winnable competition for Raburn if he hits like he did last Spring Training (six home runs by St. Patrick’s Day). From the story:

Cleveland’s projected infield includes first baseman Mark Reynolds, second baseman Jason Kipnis, shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera and third baseman Lonnie Chisenhall. Utility man Mike Aviles is in line to fill the primary backup job for second, short and third.

Gomes and McGuiness will also be in Spring Training vying for utility roles, along with Cord Phelps and Mike McDade. Like Raburn, infielders Nate Spears and Luis Hernandez will also be in camp as non-roster invitees.

Regardless of how you feel about Raburn’s tenure in Detroit (Remember when everybody dogged Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle in 2008 for calling Raburn a scrub?), it would be nice to see Raburn get another shot in the big leagues before it’s too late. He turns 32 in April, and while his shortcomings are obvious, there’s more talent there than he has shown. When he heats up at the plate, the confidence makes him a complete different players. When he’s struggling, well, that carries over too.

For what it’s worth, Cleveland has been a good place for him. In fact, he has more hits at Progressive Field (28) than at any Major League ballpark besides Comerica Park (174) and U.S. Cellular Field (46). Actually, when you look at his splits, he has been an amazingly efficient hitter on the road in the AL Central compared with everywhere else (including at home).

Will Infante play in the World Baseball Classic?

Among the surprises with last week’s unveiling of the World Baseball Classic provisional rosters was only two Tigers on Team Venezuela. It wasn’t as big of a surprise as, say, no Tigers on Team USA, but Detroit had candidates beyond Miguel Cabrera and Anibal Sanchez. Omar Infante, in particular, was much rumored for a spot on the club. The one obstacle was the fact that the Venezuelan infield is pretty stacked.

Whether something has changed is up in the air. A tweet from the man in charge of the Venezuela baseball federation suggested Infante is joining the squad.

I double checked with two baseball writers in Venezuela, and they both said it’s legit, that Infante will be the 21st player on the roster (their provisional roster had just 20).

Team president/general manager Dave Dombrowski said Monday afternoon that while there have been rumors it would happen, there’s nothing official yet. At this point, that might just be a matter of time.

One potential reason for the delay might have been Infante’s offseason recovery from the left wrist injury he suffered in Game 4 of the World Series. He was reportedly cleared to begin playing winter ball for Caribes de Anzoategui last week, and he’s on track to be ready for full work in Spring Training.

A report from the Venezuelan sports publication Lider en Deportes suggested Infante could play some outfield in the World Baseball Classic, a throwback to his younger days as a superutility player before he became an everyday second baseman again a couple years ago. That, however, is way unofficial, and it could depend on the rest of Venezuela’s infield. Pablo Sandoval was reportedly hospitalized with colitis, but rejoined his winter league team a few days ago.