01/21/13 3:42 PM ET
Raburn, Francisco sign Minor League contracts
Veterans to compete for backup roles with Indians at Spring Training
By Jordan Bastian / MLB.com
Cleveland signed utility man Ryan Raburn and outfielder Ben Francisco to Minor League contracts, which include invitations to attend Spring Training with the big league club. Raburn and Francisco will come into camp as candidates for backup roles with the Tribe.
As the Tribe's roster stands, each of the team's infield and outfield positions have a projected starter. Raburn could compete for a job as a reserve option at second and third base, as well as the corner outfield sports. Francisco also extends Cleveland's depth for the corner outfield positions.
The starting outfield projects to include Michael Brantley, Drew Stubbs and Nick Swisher. Ezequiel Carrera is a leading candidate for the fourth outfield role, but Tim Fedroff, Cedric Hunter, Matt Carson and Francisco will also be in the mix. Catcher Yan Gomes and first baseman Chris McGuiness might also get limited reps in the outfield this spring.
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.
Last season, the 31-year-old Raburn hit just .171 with one home run and 12 RBIs in 66 games for the Tigers. Raburn's showing was marred by a deep early-season slump -- one that resulted in a trip back to Triple-A Toledo at the end of May -- and injuries later in the year.
Raburn was placed on the disabled list twice over the final two months -- first for a sprained right thumb on Aug. 5, and then for a right quadriceps strain on Sept. 13.
For his career, the right-handed-hitting Raburn has posted a .256 average with a .311 on-base percentage in 566 career games (all with Detroit) over parts of seven seasons. Between the 2009-11 campaigns, he hit .274 with a .329 on-base percentage and an average of 15 home runs and 52 RBIs per year.
Raburn split most of his time between the outfield (51 games, 23 starts) and second base (32 games, 31 starts) last season. Over the course of his big league career, he has manned first base (13 games), second base (143), third base (33), left field (265), center field (35) and right field (114).
Francisco, 31, rejoins the Indians, who selected him in the fifth round of the 2002 First-Year Player Draft. Francisco played in parts of three seasons with the Tribe before he was traded -- with left-hander Cliff Lee -- to the Phillies on July 29, 2009, in exchange for Carlos Carrasco, Jason Donald, Jason Knapp and Lou Marson.
Last season, Francisco hit .240 with four home runs and 15 RBIs in 82 games with the Blue Jays, Astros and Rays. For his career, the outfielder has hit .257 with a .326 on-base percentage and a .425 slugging percentage in six seasons with Cleveland, Philadelphia, Toronto, Houston and Tampa Bay.