7/27/2013 8:02 P.M. ET
Raburn giving Tribe plenty of pop in limited role
By Jordan Bastian and Mark Emery / MLB.com
CLEVELAND -- Given all the Tribe's offseason activity, the acquisition of Ryan Raburn did not turn many heads.
Signed to a Minor League deal in January, Raburn put a nice showing together in Spring Training and stuck around on Cleveland's bench as the season began. He played often during April and received American League Player of the Week honors for his performance as the calendar flipped to May. And in Friday night's win over Texas, Raburn further demonstrated his value to the Tribe by cranking a three-run walk-off homer in the 11th inning.
"Raburn had swung the bat good all night," manager Terry Francona said. "He's actually been swinging the bat good all year."
With appearances in 58 of Cleveland's 102 games this season, Raburn is batting .273/.371/.553 with 12 doubles, 11 homers and 31 RBIs. Raburn, 32, also has 27 runs scored, 22 walks and 45 strikeouts.
He was named the AL Player of the Week for the period between April 29 and May 5, during which time he hit .591 (13-for-22) with four home runs and nine RBIs. Raburn had two straight two-homer games at the end of April.
"He has a short, quick swing, but he's worked hard to maintain it," Francona said. "I think that week he had early in the season did a world of good for his confidence. ... Every time he goes to the plate now, he's got a chance to do some damage."
Raburn needed just 161 at-bats to reach 11 home runs, becoming one of three players in baseball to hit 10 long balls in fewer than 200 at-bats this season. Atlanta's Evan Gattis (15 homers, 197 at-bats) and the Dodgers' Hanley Ramirez (11 homers, 163 at-bats) are the others.
"When I found out that he was coming over, I could not have been more excited," Nick Swisher said. "I've been playing against that guy for years. Just what he brings to the ballpark, man. He's having an unbelievable year. For him to sign a one-year deal to come over here and help us win some ballgames, man, [we] better lock that man up."
The Indians are certainly thrilled with how Raburn has come off the bench and contributed in games. Along with Mike Aviles and the rest of Cleveland's reserve crew, Raburn carries his share of the load to help the Tribe win.
"Having guys that have the ability to play every day, want to play every day and accept not playing every day," Francona said, "while being a leader and contributing when they don't, that's the kind of guy you want, and good teams have those guys. Every good team I've been on has had guys like that, and I'd put him right in the middle of that."
Smith confident he'll pitch his way out of slump
CLEVELAND -- Joe Smith has gone through slumps in the past. Just to be sure, the Indians' setup man went back and checked his track record on Friday night, reminding himself that he has overcome similar rough patches in his career.
"It seems like there's always one month in the year where I'm terrible," Smith said on Saturday. "This month, it's been tough. It's been a grind. I've just got to throw strikes, get ahead and I know good things will happen. I've been in the league long enough. I know I can get outs.
"I've been through slumps before. It's not anything I'm not familiar with. I'll come back and start rolling."
During Friday's 11-8, 11-inning victory over the Rangers, Smith surrendered two runs in the eighth inning to allow Texas to pull the game into an 8-8 tie. That performance upped the right-handed sidearmer's ERA to 7.59 over his past 13 appearances. In that span, Smith has allowed 10 runs (nine earned) on 14 hits in 10 2/3 innings, with two strikeouts and seven walks.
In Smith's previous 30 games, he posted a 1.65 ERA with 28 strikeouts and eight walks over 27 1/3 innings.
Other than an uncharacteristic amount of walks, Indians manager Terry Francona has not seen anything within Smith's recent outings to warrant much concern.
"He's walked a few more people lately than normal," Francona said. "He's fine. He comes out every night and has the same stuff every night. ... He's about as dependable a guy as [you want]. I love when he pitches, because normally he doesn't walk people, you can't run on him and he keeps the ball down. So, you've got to bunch hits together to beat him, and that's hard to do."
Smith, who has gone 4-1 with a 3.32 ERA in 43 games this season, cited pitch selection as one recent problem.
"I feel good," said Smith, who has not seen anything glaring with his mechanics. "Some of them are just stupid pitches. There's been some times where I'm letting guys get on base early in the inning from getting behind in the count.
"And it seems like, when they get on base, I've been getting ahead in the count, but then getting beat on 1-2, 0-2 counts. I just haven't been able to put anybody away."
Kipnis honored to receive Heart and Hustle Award
CLEVELAND -- With so many awards being received by so many players, it might be easy to believe that such honors are taken for granted.
That's not how Tribe second baseman Jason Kipnis feels about the Heart and Hustle Award. After being presented with the same award last year, Kipnis was selected as the Indians' winner this season, too. Before Friday's game against Texas, alumni players Terry Francona (Cleveland's manager) and Sandy Alomar Jr. (Cleveland's bench coach) presented Kipnis with the award, which "honors active players who demonstrate a passion for the game of baseball and best embody the values, spirit, and tradition of the game."
"It's just kind of credit to the way I play the game, the way I was taught to play the game -- running out the balls, talking, being a good teammate, being involved in the game," Kipnis said Saturday. "If that's what it entails to win that award, that's an award I'm going to be trying to win for years to come."
The Major League Baseball Players Alumni Association decides which player from each of the 30 teams will receive the award. One of those players will become the final winner, which will be announced on Nov. 19 at the 14th Annual Legends for Youth Dinner in New York City. Former Indians outfielder Grady Sizemore was named the overall winner in 2008.
Kipnis would love to take home that honor in 2013. The first-time All-Star entered Saturday with a .296/.376/.514 line with 15 homers and 62 RBIs. He is also 21-for-27 in stolen-base attempts.
"There's definitely other good candidates on this team. The fact that they picked me does mean a lot," Kipnis said. "It's gratifying. It's gratifying to receive that award. It's gratifying to be acknowledged for your hustle and all the stuff like that, so it's awesome."
Quote to note
"Nowadays, with Internet, it's not like the old days where it was just a paper. There's stuff everywhere. I don't know where we were on the last road trip, Minnesota or Seattle, but Lonnie [Chisenhall's] name was on ESPN. It was Lonnie for [Matt] Garza. I saw it on the TV and I walked right up to him and I said, 'Lonnie,' because he was watching it, I said, 'Lonnie, you're not going anywhere.' I said, 'Have fun watching it, enjoy it, but you're not going anywhere.'"
--Francona on dealing with trade rumors
• Right-hander Josh Tomlin, who has been on the disabled list all season while recovering from Tommy John surgery on his right elbow, made his first Minor League rehab start for the Arizona League Indians on Friday. Tomlin logged one shutout inning with one hit allowed and one strikeout.
• Entering Saturday, the Indians led the American League in advancing from first to third base (or home) on a base hit, doing so 72 times this season. In the Majors, only the Cardinals (74) had done so more times than the Tribe.
• The Indians' pitching staff had posted a 3.67 ERA (141 earned runs in 346 innings) over the past 39 games, entering Saturday's action. In 14 games since July, the Tribe's pitching staff has led the Major Leagues with a 2.38 ERA (33 earned runs in 125 innings).
• Cleveland entered Saturday's game with Texas sporting a Major League-leading .778 (14-4) winning percentage against the AL West. Since 1994, when the divisions were realigned, the Indians' best winning percentage against the AL West came in '99 (.690, 29-13).
Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, and follow him on Twitter @MLBastian. Mark Emery is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.