CLEVELAND — Indians manager Terry Francona calls bench players Ryan Raburn and Mike Aviles luxuries. It’s easy to see why.
Though neither is a starter, both have contributed plenty to Cleveland’s success this season. Aviles filled in admirably when all-star shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera went down with injury, and the veteran can play nearly every position on the field. Raburn has provided offense almost every time he has been in the lineup.
“I think that it’s overlooked how important those guys are,” Francona said. “The teams that have guys on the bench that can step in and be productive, I think that’s a telling mark.
“Having guys that have the ability to play every day, want to play every day and accept not playing every day, while being a leader and contributing when you don’t, that’s the kind of guy you want, and good teams have those guys.”
Raburn’s production has been more evident, with the veteran outfielder hitting 11 home runs and driving in 31 runs over 58 games. He is one of just three players in the majors with at least 11 homers with fewer than 200 at-bats.
Raburn, 32, has been steady since a hot streak in late April ended with him being named American League player of the week.
“He has a short quick swing and 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. Being a bench player is hard. You play maybe once a week and you line out and you kind of have to live with it. That week did so much for his confidence. Every time he goes to the plate now, he’s got the chance to do some damage.”
Reliever Joe Smith supplanted right-hander Vinnie Pestano as the eighth-inning setup man, but he’s scuffled as of late, entering Saturday with a 9.45 ERA over his last nine appearances.
Fancona isn’t concerned.
“He’s walked a few more people lately than normal, other than that he’s fine,” Francona said. “He comes out and has the same stuff every night. I think he’s walked six guys in the last whatever innings. That’ll change. He’s about as dependable guy (as you can have).”
On the year, Smith is 4-1 with a 3.29 ERA in 44 appearances.
Though the trading deadline is a stressful time for Francona and the front office, the manager has been keeping an eye on his players as well.
On Cleveland’s recent road trip, a trade rumor involving third baseman Lonnie Chisenhall and pitcher Matt Garza, who wound up being dealt from the Cubs to the Rangers, flashed on a television in the visitors clubhouse.
“I saw it on the TV and I walked right up to him and I said, ‘Lonnie,” because he was watching it. I said, ‘You’re not going anywhere.’ I said, ‘Have fun watching it, enjoy it, but you’re not going anywhere.’ You try to kind of take the temperature and see if guys are feeling it.”
Rangers relief pitcher Tanner Scheppers said he was attacked by “several young males,” as he walked through downtown Cleveland on Thursday night. The right-hander said the incident occurred a few blocks away from the team hotel (Marriott Key Center) as he walked to dinner.
Scheppers said he was knocked to the ground, but that his assailants ran away without robbing him. He said he did not file a police report and was available to pitch Saturday.
With his one-out single in the second inning, Rangers shortstop Elvis Andrus passed Ken Griffey Jr. for the longest hitting streak — 36 games — ever against the Indians. Andrus has hit safely in all 36 games he has played against Cleveland, which accounts for the third-longest streak against an opponent in the majors and the longest by a Texas player against an opponent.
Contact Chris Assenheimer at 329-7136 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Fan him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter @CAwesomeheimer.