LOS ANGELES — The Syracuse Chiefs bused to Pawtucket, R.I., on Sunday afternoon, and 36-year-old Ryan Raburn was with them. When he arrived, word came that the Nationals needed him in the big leagues. Jayson Werth’s foot would likely require a disabled list stint.
So Raburn hopped in a cab headed for Logan Airport in Boston, which is normally an hour drive. This time, it took two. Even so, Raburn made his flight to Los Angeles, a six-hour trip that completed 13 hectic hours of travel and led him to his locker in the visitors’ clubhouse at Dodger Stadium.
“It’s been a little chaotic,” Raburn said. “But it’s definitely worth it to be back up here and playing with a great team.”
Raburn last played in the majors in 2016, when he hit .220 in 113 games for the Rockies. He began this season in Class AAA Charlotte of the White Sox organization, and was traded to the Nationals for cash considerations or a player to be named just more than a week ago. He was hitting .274 with an .833 OPS in 33 Class AAA games when the Nationals called him up, something he figured they might do soon after acquiring him.
“Most of the time, when a team does [a deal like that], they have a reason and a purpose for it,” Raburn said. “When and how it was going to work out, I wasn’t sure. But my job is just to play ball. Hopefully things work out. And so far, they have.”
Raburn has played every position except catcher and shortstop, but will obviously be relied upon more as an outfielder for these Nationals, who have plenty of infield depth but a dearth of help in the outfield. He is used to a flexible role, having never played more than 121 games in a season, serving more as a full-time bench type for the Tigers, then the Indians, then the Rockies. He has played 589 games in the outfield, 145 at second base and 52 at corner infield spots.
“I’m maybe not as versatile as I used to be, but it definitely helped prolong my career,” Raburn said. “I think everybody that plays this game would like to make a lot of money. Being in that role probably didn’t make as much as I’d like to, but it gave me a chance to stick around in the game longer. I’ve been blessed.”
As tends to happen in situations such as these, Raburn did not get much time for acclimation. Nationals Manager Dusty Baker put him right in the starting lineup, playing left field and batting second in place of Werth against Dodgers left-hander Hyun-Jin Ryu. Baker said that while he never got to know Raburn, who spent much of his career in the American League, he thinks the Nationals found exactly what they need.
“We’re left-handed strong off the bench. So we needed some right-handed production. He was the perfect guy for us. He kind of fell in our lap,” Baker said. “He’s been on winning teams, so he knows what it’s about. I told him just make sure you get the signs and fit in where you get on this team.”
Raburn went 0 for 4 Monday night before being subbed out in a double switch. But with Clayton Kershaw due Wednesday, the Nationals will need all right hands on deck then, too. He probably will not have to wait as long, nor travel quite as far, for his second start as a National.