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A sometimes-irreverent look at Detroit's Boys of Summer, the Tigers, as they try to return to the top of the American League Central.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Leyland admits should have played struggling Raburn less: 'I screwed that up'

Ryan Raburn has always had a ton of potential in his bat, but has never been confused with a quick starter.

Raburn, who was promised the left field starting job last spring training, only to move into the second base rotation on the team's first West Coast trip, was tabbed the starting second baseman early this season. That pronouncement came shortly after the team ended the Brandon Inge Second Base Experiment, releasing the veteran infielder at the end of April.

And, in retrospect, putting those kind of expectations on Raburn may have been a bad move on manager Jim Leyland's part, he now admits.

"I gotta just play him right. I screwed that up. He got overwhelmed when I told him he was going to play most of the time. I think he just got overwhelmed. ... In his defense, I think I just overwhelmed him a little bit," said Leyland, who has seen an improvement since Raburn's return from Triple-A Toledo late last week, but won't yet say he's out of the woods. 

Always a slow starter — he's a career .300 hitter in the second half, as opposed to a .216 first-half hitter — Raburn's normal struggles just got worse. He was hitting just .146 with seven RBI and 35 strikeouts when the Tigers sent him to the minors after an 0-for-4 day on May 28.

Leyland gave him the rope to pull himself out of the slump, but instead he hung himself with it. Every time there were signs he might pull out of it — like the four-RBI game against the White Sox in mid-May — he'd go right back in a shell.

Admitting maybe he should have played him less, rather than more, Leyland said going forward Raburn will split time at second and left field, taking advantage of his versatility. But it won't be hard to change the plan, if he starts producing.

 "If he gets hot, I’ll play him. If he hits like he did in the second half, he’ll be in the lineup. I’m talking about just trying to get him going.  I probably should’ve done that to start with. I probably screwed it up," said Leyland, who was then asked the follow-up if he meant he'd played Raburn too much. "I just think the mental part of, ‘OK, you’re the guy now.’ He got like a deer in the headlights look. Probably all kinds of (crap) going through his mind, like ‘Well, I’m a slow starter,’ ... ‘Now I’m playing all the time.’ I probably screwed it up.’ "

Despite getting just 31 minor league at-bats before his recall (and hitting just .194), Raburn has done relatively well in his first three games back with the Tigers, hitting .364 (4-for-11, with a couple doubles) and contributing a pair of nice defensive plays in left field in Saturday's game.

"He’s been better, quality at-bats. ... I mean, he’s not home free yet, but he’s better," Leyland said. "He’s a valuable guy, he’s just — he didn’t start well, so he’s kinda the whipping boy." 


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