OAKLAND -- By putting Ryan Raburn in the Opening Day lineup against A's right-hander Sonny Gray, Indians manager Terry Francona provided a glimpse into how the utility man might be used this season. Raburn might be graduating from his part-time duties.
"People look at him as a role player," Francona said earlier this week. "I don't know that that necessarily has to be the case. He's got some thump in that bat."
Throughout last season, Raburn was used primarily against left-handed pitching off the bench for Cleveland. He excelled in that role and became an offensive force in his limited plate appearances. At least for the beginning of this year, Raburn appears to have earned more at-bats in the eyes of Francona.
Raburn enjoys knowing he might be in the lineup more often than not.
"I appreciate it," Raburn said. "Everybody wants to play. The more opportunities I get, of course I'm grateful for it. My biggest thing is just being able to contribute and help the ballclub."
Raburn was originally slotted into Tuesday's lineup against the A's as the designated hitter for the second straight game. After that contest was postponed due to rain, Francona altered the order and put Raburn in the fifth spot for Game 1 of Wednesday's split doubleheader as the Tribe's left fielder.
In 86 games for Cleveland last season, the 32-year-old Raburn hit .272 with 16 home runs, 55 RBIs and a team-leading .901 OPS. His 16 home runs were the most in the Major Leagues among hitters with fewer than 300 plate appearances. Against lefty pitching, Raburn posted a 1.020 OPS, which ranked fifth in the American League among batters with at least 100 plate appearances against southpaws.
Even when he has filled a reserve role, Raburn said he tries to prepare like an everyday player.
"I think the best way to do it is accept it when I'm a role guy," Raburn said. "You have to do all the little things that are asked of you. But me and [Mike Aviles] talk about it all the time, that the mentality is we're preparing ourselves to play 162 games."
Lee promoted for second game of doubleheader
OAKLAND -- It is no secret that Indians manager Terry Francona loves carrying as many relievers as possible. In true Francona style, he will have nine arms in his bullpen for the second game of Wednesday's split doubleheader.
Cleveland recalled right-hander C.C. Lee prior to the second game to serve as the 26th man on the roster. According to baseball's rules, Lee is only eligible for Game 2 as the extra player due to the postponement being on the previous day.
"We'll get him here, try to get his legs under him a little bit," Francona said. "And he'll be available for the second game."
Cleveland opened the season with eight relievers, only three extra position players and no traditional backup catcher. Yan Gomes serves as the starting catcher for the Indians, who then use Carlos Santana as the backup catcher, third baseman and designated hitter.
Gomes and Santana are the only catchers on the 40-man roster, so Francona said the team did not spend much time discussing adding a third catcher for the doubleheader.
"That's hard to do," Francona said. "I don't think we probably could have thought about it."
The 27-year-old Lee appeared in eight games for the Indians last season, posting a 4.15 ERA with four strikeouts and three walks in 4 1/3 innings. In 29 Minor League appearances in 2013, the right-hander had a 2.48 ERA, 0.97 WHIP, 37 strikeouts and 10 walks in 29 innings.
During Spring Training, Lee had a 3.24 ERA to go along with 12 strikeouts and five walks in 8 1/3 innings for Cleveland.
"The organization loves him, myself included," Francona said. "There's so much to like about him. It's just, early in the year, when you don't know what innings are going to be there ... you can get a guy in Triple-A to get consistent innings. That can be a real help. He's going to help us. There's no doubt, he's going to help us this year."
Area product Morgan has fun with Bay Area fans
OAKLAND -- Nyjer Morgan could not help himself. During a postgame television interview after Monday's Opening Day win over the A's, the Indians outfielder heard a group of fans chanting his name from the Coliseum stands.
Morgan turned toward the crowd, opened his mouth wide and growled.
That was his alter ego, Tony Plush, making a brief cameo.
"Just a little bit. He came out. He came out just a little bit," Morgan said with a laugh. "I've tried not to bring him out too much. He's still on an island on vacation somewhere. Yeah, he came out. Just a little bit. I was just having fun out there."
Morgan is enjoying every opportunity he can get right now with the Indians, who used him as their leadoff man and center fielder on Monday with Michael Bourn (left hamstring) on the 15-day disabled list. With Bourn sidelined through at least Friday, Morgan's playing time might come against right-handed pitching.
In the 2-0 win over the A's in the season opener, Morgan delivered the game-winning RBI with a sacrifice fly against closer Jim Johnson in the ninth inning. The fleet-footed outfielder added a walk in the first inning and a sacrifice bunt in the fifth. Morgan became only the fifth player since 1950 to have a game-winning RBI in his Indians debut on Opening Day.
"He took some pitches in the first at-bat," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "He drove the ball to the outfield with a runner on third with less than two outs, and he caught the ball in the outfield. That's what we got him for."
Morgan, who grew up in the Bay Area, was thrilled that he could contribute on Day 1.
"I got a little taste of it and it felt good being part of it," Morgan said. "Doing it for this year to start off Opening Day, it's a real nice thing. I just take each day as they come and try to make sure I put on my best performance shoes."
Quote to note
"I think that everybody is learning. I think MLB has kind of come out and said that there's going to be some hiccups, there's going to be some growing pains and we'll try to adjust. I think they've done a really good job of explaining it to us."
-- Indians manager Terry Francona, on baseball's new instant-replay system
• Cleveland manager Terry Francona said the A's and Indians looked at potential dates later in the season to play a makeup game for Tuesday's rainout, but the teams felt playing a split doubleheader was the best solution. Francona said putting an extra game on the schedule deep in the summer can often become problematic.
"We needed to be careful what we wished for," Francona said. "A long day in April is way better. ... It's really easy to just, at the time, go, 'We'll play it later. We'll deal with it later.' Then, later comes, and it gets difficult."
• Francona stuck with his plan on Tuesday and kept Asdrubal Cabrera in the leadoff spot for the first game of Wednesday's doubleheader. Cabrera was in the lineup Wednesday as the designated hitter and not shortstop, though. The manager said the position change was simply to account for playing two games in one day, and having just three extra position players.
• Indians center fielder Michael Bourn (on the 15-day disabled list due to a left hamstring injury) is scheduled to play for Triple-A Columbus as part of a rehab assignment on Thursday and Friday. Bourn will be eligible to be activated from the DL on Saturday.
• The Indians are more than familiar with inclement weather in Cleveland, but Tuesday's postponement in Oakland was a rarity. It marked the first rainout at the Coliseum since May 5, 1998, and Wednesday's split doubleheader was the first in the history of the stadium.