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02/23/2013 8:28 PM ET

Raburn making powerful push early for roster spot

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Terry Francona had a few players in mind as potential targets when he took over as manager of the Indians. On his first day on the job, he asked general manager Chris Antonetti to keep Ryan Raburn in mind.

"He's a guy we targeted," Francona said. "I remember saying, 'If this guy gets taken off the roster,' and Chris said, 'I like him, too.'"

In Saturday's 13-10 Cactus League victory over the Reds, Raburn belted a pair of home runs for the Indians. The utility man -- in camp on a Minor League contract -- now has three long balls through Cleveland's first two exhibition games.

Raburn has stormed out of the gates in his bid for a spot on the Tribe's bench.

"This is like the regular season for these guys," Francona said. "He understands that. It's the second game, but it's still nice to see. He's taken a couple of nice swings. It's fun to watch."

Raburn, who was in Detroit's Opening Day lineup a year ago, was released by the Tigers in November. The Indians signed Raburn, 31, in January and have brought him into camp as a non-roster invitee with a chance to win a backup role for second and third base, as well as the corner-outfield spots.

Last year, Raburn enjoyed a strong spring -- he had six homers and 19 RBIs in 21 games -- but then hit .171 with one homer and 12 RBIs in 66 games for the Tigers in the regular season. He battled a deep early-season slump, was demoted to Triple-A Toledo in May and fought injuries in a second-half return to the big leagues.

For his career, the right-handed hitter has posted a .256 average with a .311 on-base percentage in 566 career games (all with Detroit) over 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 for the Tigers.

Cleveland is hoping Raburn can piece together a solid comeback.

"He had a tough year. That happens," Francona said. "If he would've had a good year, we wouldn't have had a chance to get him. You have a guy with talent that the Tigers felt deserved the chance to be their starting second baseman. So there's something there."

Myers comfortable in transition back from bullpen

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- The way Brett Myers sees things, his move to the Indians' rotation after working as a reliever all of last season is less of a transition and more of a return to his comfort zone. Starting games and chewing up innings is what Myers has done for most of his career.

"It's not really a transition at all," Myers said. "I've started my whole career. This is nothing new. Last year was actually the first Spring Training where I didn't work as a starter to prepare for the season."

Myers said he still does not know why Houston moved him to the bullpen in 2012.

On Saturday, Myers took the hill at Goodyear Ballpark for his first outing as a member of Cleveland's rotation. The right-hander logged two innings and allowed two runs (one earned) to open the Tribe's 13-10 win over Cincinnati.

Myers, entering his 12th big league season, worked exclusively with fastballs and changeups in his first appearance.

"I felt fine," said Myers, who signed a one-year contract for $7 million with the Indians this offseason. "I'm just trying to work on my fastball location and my changeup. I'll throw the other stuff later. I need those two pitches right now.

"The changeup is my fourth pitch, so I want to work on it and make sure it's there for the season."

Myers' first inning was not without a touch of drama.

With two outs, Myers hit Reds rookie outfielder Donald Lutz with a misplaced changeup to put runners on first and second. The pitcher said something from the mound and Lutz glared back as he slowly headed up the first-base line. Myers said he was not talking to the Reds hitter.

"I said something to the umpire," Myers said. "I said, 'He's got to get out of the way of that, doesn't he?' Because he didn't move at all. The umpire came out. I don't know if he said anything to [catcher Lou Marson] or whatnot. It wasn't anything. Maybe he thought I said something to him."

Cleveland is counting on Myers, 32, to provide some stability for its starting staff. In seven full seasons as a starter, the righty has logged 190 innings six times and 210 innings in three seasons. As a starter, Myers has gone 89-79 with a 4.27 ERA in 249 outings.

Myers went 21-22 with a 3.79 ERA as a starter across the 2010-11 seasons, during which he had 340 strikeouts and 123 walks over 439 2/3 innings for the Astros. Myers' production over that span was especially respectable given that Houston combined to lose 192 games in those two seasons.

"He will throw a bundle of innings," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "The one thing he's always prided himself on is staying out there through six [innings] at least. ... If you do that, you keep your team in the game."

Giambi makes first start in quest for 19th MLB season

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Jason Giambi lumbered through the tunnel behind the right-field wall at Goodyear Ballpark, his equipment bag slung over his shoulder as he headed for the team bus. On his way out, the veteran gave a thumbs up to a group of reporters.

"I made it, man," Giambi said with a laugh. "My body is still together."

Giambi, 42, was in the Indians' starting lineup Saturday for the first time this spring, serving as the designated hitter and batting cleanup against the Reds. Cleveland is giving the aging slugger a chance to win a spot on the Opening Day roster as a part-time DH, first baseman and pinch-hitter.

All the Indians have asked of Giambi -- a non-roster invitee -- is to be honest about how he feels.

"We're trying to monitor his at-bats, because I don't want to run him into the ground," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "But that's like everybody. But again, with guys that have some age on them, you use some common sense. He's smart enough. I told him, 'Tell me when you're good.'"

Francona said he believes Giambi still has good bat speed.

"I don't think that's a concern," Francona said. "We just want to make sure it's a fit on the ballclub. His bat speed is fine."

With the Rockies, Giambi collected 26 at-bats last spring and 31 at-bats in Spring Training two years ago. Over the past three seasons as a role player off Colorado's bench, Giambi hit .245 with a .370 on-base percentage, 20 home runs, 72 walks and 75 RBIs in 211 games.

If Giambi makes the Tribe's roster, it will mark his 19th season in the big leagues.

"He's been doing this for a long time," Francona said. "When you watch him hit, he's got it down to such a simple swing. He's got a little movement forward. He's got a pretty good idea of what he's doing."

Quote to note

"Masterson and Ubaldo, they just have overpowering stuff, if they can throw strikes. Teams want them to not be around the plate, because they're not fun to face. They're throwing hard with a lot of movement. It's pretty tough to face guys like that."
--Indians starter Brett Myers, on Justin Masterson and Ubaldo Jimenez

Smoke signals

• Indians manager Terry Francona said first baseman Chris McGuiness, who was selected from the Rangers in December's Rule 5 Draft, will receive some playing time in the corner-outfield spots this spring. If McGuiness does not make the Tribe's Opening Day roster, he must be offered back to Texas for $25,000.

"We're trying to enhance his chances," Francona said. "I mean, if you look at our roster, as a first baseman, it's pretty thick over there. The kid's got enough ability where, for us to Rule 5 him, there's people who really liked him. And he's more than willing to do it."

• The Indians' rotation race will be in full swing on Sunday. Zach McAllister and Daisuke Matsuzaka are slated to pitch at home against the Reds, while Carlos Carrasco, Scott Kazmir, Trevor Bauer and David Huff will hit the road for a game against the Brewers. All six pitchers are among the arms in the mix for the last two spots on the starting staff.

• Right-hander Joe Smith, who has been working his way back from a minor abdominal injury, threw off a mound in a bullpen session on Saturday morning. Smith is expected to be recovered in time for Opening Day.

Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, and follow him on Twitter @MLBastian. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.