Raburn makes debut behind the plate

Raburn makes debut behind the plate

LAKELAND, Fla. -- Ryan Raburn's first game as a catcher was actually more like a brief respite from the outfield.

Manager Jim Leyland had been saying for some time that he wanted to get Raburn some innings behind the plate. After Brandon Inge caught Jeremy Bonderman's four innings, in went Raburn -- from left field -- to catch reliever Freddy Dolsi.

Inge, in turn, went from behind the plate out to left. It was essentially a positional swap until the sixth, when Raburn went back out to left and Dane Sardinha took over catching duties.

"I thought he was kidding at first," Raburn said. "After I got that one inning, I would've liked to have had another one."

Dolsi retired the side in order, making it a short stay. The only adjustment, he said, was that he kept putting his throwing hand out in the open rather than behind him to protect it against foul tips.

"It was a little nervous at first," Raburn said, "but I'd rather do it now than in the regular season. If I happen to mess up or do something, it won't cost near as much. It was fun to get back there. I didn't feel too uncomfortable."

The move was meant to prepare Raburn for a possible role as a emergency catcher if Ivan Rodriguez and his backup were injured or ejected in the same game. Raburn caught bullpen sessions this spring to prepare, but he hadn't caught in a game since high school.

"He's going to catch a little bit more this spring from time to time," Leyland said, "an inning here and there for emergency stuff."

Because the side was retired in order, Raburn never got a chance to show off his arm. That came once he was back in left field, where he threw out Van Pope trying to take third base on a fly ball.

It was a fun enough day, Raburn joked, that he wanted to ask if they needed him to pitch the 10th when the game went to extra innings.

Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.