Raburn could be strong option off the bench

Veteran aims to prove he can still provide offense in a pinch

Raburn could be strong option off the bench

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- As he got comfortable on his first day in Reds camp as a non-roster player since signing a Minor League contract, Ryan Raburn had a firm grasp on why he was brought in to compete for a spot.

Raburn, who will be 36 next month and has been in the Major Leagues since 2004, is vying for one of the four open bench spots.

"Pretty much my whole career, I've been a role, bench-type guy," Raburn said. "It's not something I just came into the last year or two. I'm used to it, but I also take pride in it, too. It's hard. Not many guys can go out there and not play for a few days and be successful. I think I've done pretty well for myself to be able to have success doing that. It's not something I take lightly."

"Of course, everybody would love to be an everyday player and be a superstar, but in all reality not everybody's going to be that. If I can be somebody that can come off the bench and have success and help the ballclub win, then that's what I'll do."

Raburn will earn $900,000 this season if he makes the team. The first seven seasons of his career from 2004-12 were spent with the Tigers, followed by three seasons with the Indians and 2016 with the Rockies.

Last season with Colorado, Raburn batted .220/.309/.404 with nine homers and 30 RBIs in 113 games. He did thrive vs. left-handed pitching with a 1.196 OPS in 32 plate appearances vs. lefty relievers. Lifetime vs. left-handers, he has an .827 OPS vs. .685 against right-handers.

Raburn has played seven positions over his career. The only two he hasn't are catcher and shortstop.

"I really see him as a corner outfielder or first baseman. Then in a pinch or extra innings, if we need him to play second or third, we could do that," Reds manager Bryan Price said.

Both Raburn and the recently-signed Desmond Jennings -- also a non-roster invite -- have good chances to make the team because of their veteran experience.

Raburn's career stats have one quirk. In recent even-numbered years, he has struggled, while he has thrived in odd-numbered seasons. For example, for Cleveland in 2015, he batted .301 with a .393 on-base percentage.

"I've had three tough years, you know what I mean? Unfortunately it's been part of the last five years," Raburn said. "It's been that trend. But for a while there, for four of five straight years, I was pretty good. But this is a tough game. There's a lot of good talent out here. I think if I was the type of guy who could do it day-in and day-out, I'd be making a lot more money and wouldn't be looking for Minor League deals. I still believe I can play at this level. Hopefully, if the odd-year thing is what it's turning out to be, then this is the year."

Mark Sheldon has covered the Reds for MLB.com since 2006, and previously covered the Twins from 2001-05. Follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon and Facebook and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.