One of my absolute, all-time favorite comments connected to spring training is the ‘ol “best shape of his life.” How often do you hear someone say “Good lord, this guy looks like a blimp. He must be in the worst shape of his life?” You rarely hear this, even if a guy shows up to camp looking like a blob. Around June or July, you’re much more likely to hear discussion about a player’s lousy physical condition (usually listed as a reason for their terrible start to the season).
We now have our first “best shape of his life” for the Indians (that I’ve seen so far) – Ryan Raburn. I’d almost forgotten about Ryan Raburn until the discussion in the comments under this post. He had knee surgery last September (mercifully) ending his 2014 season early. But according to Jordan Bastian of MLB.com, Raburn worked with a trainer over the winter and lost 12% body fat. After hitting .272/.357/.543 in 2013 (.308/.403/.617 against lefties) he hit just .200/.250/.297 in 2014 (.195/.263/.333 against lefties). Raburn was not retained by the Detroit Tigers after the 2012 season after he hit a paltry .171/.226/.254. I really thought that Terry Francona had discovered the appropriate way to use Raburn in 2013, but none of that seemed to matter last season. Maybe Raburn just has something against even-numbered years?
Even though the Indians outfield is a bit crowded, they’re set to pay Raburn $2.5 million this season (and he has a $3 million team option for 2016 with a $100,000 buyout). I can’t see a team as tight with its wallet as the Indians just kissing goodbye to $2.5 million. I was a little puzzled by the Raburn extension at the time, but I figured it was fair enough because of his good platoon numbers in 2013. We’ll have to wait for the outfield situation to shake itself out this spring. With so many guys coming back from injuries/surgical procedures, there may be one or two whose recovery lags a bit.
If you’d like to see more players “in the best shape of their lives” go ahead and check out this link.