Washington Nationals: Ryan Rayburn makes debut
By Ron Juckett
The Washington Nationals to the fold and he immediately replaces an injured Jayson Werth. What can we expect from the new guy?
Ryan Rayburn, the newest member of the Washington Nationals, is the definition of a grizzled veteran.
Traded for cash considerations after Chris Heisey ruptured his bicep, Rayburn got the call to join the Nats after Jayson Werth injured a foot on a swing Saturday in Oakland. The switch from Triple-A Charlotte with the Chicago White Sox to starting against the Los Angeles Dodgers was a jolt.
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One he relished.
Best known for his immense versatility, Rayburn played seven seasons with the Detroit Tigers. He played every position except catcher and short, even pitching twice for the Cleveland Indians out of the bullpen. A corner outfielder by trade, the most games he started in a season was 85 for the Tigers in 2010.
Yet, he has power. Four times in his career Rayburn popped double-digit home runs, including a career high 16 in 2009. The next year, he slashed 25 doubles. With a career OPS+ of 100, he is an average player.
After signing with the Cincinnati Reds at the start of Spring Training this year, Rayburn did not make the final roster and left in late-March. He spent 2016 in Denver with Colorado Rockies, hitting nine homers in 113 games. The .220 batting average and 80 strike outs were not enough to draw interest. When the Reds let him go, he must have thought at 36 this was it.
The White Sox signed him to a minor-league deal, and the Nats were looking for veteran depth at Syracuse with both Michael Taylor and Brian Goodwin with Washington. When Werth went down, Rayburn got another chance.
This is not a long-term deal. Depending on how long Heisey’s bicep heals, he could stay on the big club after Werth’s return. Goodwin has options but played well since his latest recall. Chances are they keep him instead.
For a baseball lifer like Rayburn, having the chance to compete for a championship-level team is a bonus. Unless a major injury opens a job elsewhere, he is never playing every day again. Last year with the Rockies he started in 45 of his 113 total games. It is all gravy.
Rayburn will not wow you with his bat or glove, but he is not hurting you either. A steady player that provides needed depth. Like his entire career.
Next: Nats trio leads NL All-Star vote
When tales of championship teams are written, often role players like Rayburn play key parts along with the superstars. Remember that if he does any alumni functions.