TOM WITHERS,AP Sports Writer
CLEVELAND (AP) — Ryan Raburn came to training camp this spring with something to prove. He wanted to show the Indians that a disastrous 2012 season in Detroit was behind him. He wanted a fresh start, a new home.
He’s found it.
The versatile Raburn was rewarded Wednesday with a two-year, $4.85 million contract extension that includes a $3 million club option for 2016.
“For me, it’s a great opportunity and a great feeling,” Raburn said. “This organization has been unbelievable to me and the team they’re building around here. I’m enjoying every day coming to the ballpark. It’s been a pleasure and I think there are great things to come with this team. “
Released by the Tigers after last season, Raburn has had a major impact in his first year with the Indians, who signed him to a minor league contract in January.
Raburn is batting .277 with 13 homers — third most on the team — and 38 RBIs in 66 games. He’s made starts in right field (37), left (seven), second base (two) and designated hitter (five), and manager Terry Francona has batted him everywhere but the No. 1 and 2 spot in the order.
“I’m happy for him,” Francona said of the extension. “I’m proud for him and I’m glad for our team.”
General manager Chris Antonetti said the Indians approached Raburn before the All-Star break with the idea of the extension. Antonetti said the sides finalized the deal on the morning of Aug. 1, and Raburn went out that day and homered twice in a win over the Chicago White Sox.
During the offseason, the Indians identified Raburn as a player who could stabilize their bench.
“We always appreciated Ryan playing across the field from us,” Antonetti said. “We thought he would be a good fit with the guys we had here. He had a down year last year and that’s why he was available. He has fit in seamlessly. His versatility has been a huge asset for us and obviously his production speaks for itself.”
Raburn also has been one of the Indians’ most clutch players. He enters Wednesday’s game batting .462 (12 of 26) with 19 RBIs with runners in scoring position and two outs.
It’s fitting that Raburn received his new deal while the Tigers were in town. Last season, he was named Detroit’s starting second baseman before opening day. However, the 32-year-old he battled injuries, hit just .171 in 66 games and spent some time at Triple-A Toledo before the Tigers released him. He was also the target of boos at Comerica Park and the Tigers left him off their postseason roster.
Raburn smiled when reminded the Tigers were visiting when he got his new deal.
“It’s just a good coincidence they are in town,” he said. “I’m excited to be able to be here for a few more years.”
Raburn, who was selected by Detroit in the 2001 draft, said he even considered retirement during the offseason, that’s how bad things went for him last year.
“I don’t think anything went right for me,” he said. “I’m just grateful Cleveland gave me the opportunity.”
Raburn said he called his parents on Tuesday night to tell them about his new contract, and said having a multiyear deal will not diminish his drive.
“It’s not like I’m not going to play the game as hard,” he said.
Tigers manager Jim Leyland has always been a big fan of Raburn’s and was pleased his former player was rewarded.
“I’m thrilled,” Leyland said. “I’m so happy for him. It’s well deserved. He’s comfortable here. He has a manager he’s going to have a great relationship with. I think things are really going to work out for him.”
Leyland, too, wanted something back from Raburn.
“If I don’t get a sleeve of golf balls, I’m going to be very disappointed,” Leyland said.
Raburn promised a small gift to his former skipper.
“Yeah, I’ll give him a short sleeve,” he said.
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