The Tigers originally selected Ryan Raburn as a 5th round selection in the 2001 draft out of South Florida. Drafted as a Third Baseman, Raburn came in and had an excellent rookie season, going .363-8-42 for Oneonta in just 171 at bats.
But then, disaster hit. Raburn suffered a devastating hip injury in the offseason in an ATV accident. Raburn lost almost the entire 2002 season while rehabbing the injury, as there was talk that he would never be able to return to competitive baseball.
Raburn did make it back – but he wasn't the same hitter. He still had the raw power, but he struggled mightily, adjusting to tougher competition as well as recovering from the injury.
Raburn continued to struggle to make contact through 2003, hitting just .222 for Lakeland, where he spent most of the season. Pressure came from hitting coaches and the organization to make adjustments, attempting to allow him to make more consistent contact, even if that caused his power to suffer a bit.
But struggling to find his swing again wasn't Raburn's only battle. With the depth the organization had at the position, the Tigers decided to move Ryan from the hot corner to Second Base. The shift was no walk in the park.
"It's a lot of work," Raburn said. "The coaches make me work on it all the time. It's an adjustment, but that's why you gotta come to work every day."
It didn't come easy, but Raburn has finally began to look comfortable playing defense at Second Base, as he always had the athletic ability to play the position, and has just needed repetition.
And with that, his bat, after a long slumber, has finally come alive, and come alive in a big way. But it hasn't been the result of any big adjustments in his stance or swing.
"Pretty much just everything has been coming together for me at the plate", a confident Raburn said after a doubleheader in which he tortured opposing pitching once again. "I work and battle every day, and sooner or later it comes through."
For the season, Raburn hit .301/.380/.533, launching 16 Home Runs and knocking in 63 runs, despite not hitting in an RBI hole most of the year. Even better, Raburn had a 20-game hit streak stretching through most of August, in which Raburn hit .485 with 25 runs and 20 runs driven in. Raburn has been hitting so well that he's starting to be mentioned as a player on the fast track to the majors.
So does that mean a September call-up might be in the works, whenever the Seawolves' season is over? The logistics make it possible, as Raburn is on the Tigers 40-man roster, meaning the team wouldn't need to clear a spot for him on the roster to bring him up (like it would for fellow teammate Curtis Granderson). Raburn hasn't been told anything, and he'd rather it stays that way.
"I try not to think about that, because whenever I do, all it does is makes me nervous."
Either way, Raburn has used his 2004 season to showcase his offensive abilities, and even if it makes him nervous, his call-up to the show is coming, and it's going to be sooner rather than later.