SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Ryan Raburn, who signed to a Minor League contract with the Cleveland Indians over the offseason, is off to a hot start this spring.
Raburn hit .550 through nine games, with four home runs and 11 RBIs. Although the statistics do not count for much in Spring Training, Raburn's strong start is a positive sign for the Indians, as the 31-year-old utility player is coming off of a dismal 2012 season.
"He should feel confident," manager Terry Francona said. "He feels good about himself, and every time he goes up there, he puts the barrel on the ball. That's a good feeling as a hitter."
Raburn, who spent a large part of last season on the disabled list with a right quadriceps strain, played in 66 games with the Detroit Tigers and posted career lows in batting average (.171) and on-base percentage (.226).
Despite the struggles from a season ago, Raburn is a career .256 hitter with a simple swing that Francona believes will allow him to have success not only this Spring, but also during the regular season, regardless of his role.
"Whether he starts or comes in or plays half a game, he has that nice, short stroke working," Francona said. "I think his swing is really suited to do that. Everybody wants to play every day, but he has a nice short swing [that is suited for any role]."
Francona values baserunning over stolen bases
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- The retooled Cleveland Indians offense can run. With Jason Kipnis, Drew Stubbs, Michael Bourn and Michael Brantley, it is no secret Cleveland will be able to steal bases in 2013.
The quartet of Indians combined to swipe 115 bags last season, but manager Terry Francona's focus is not on stealing bases. Instead, he is focused on strong, fundamental baserunning.
"I think we have the potential to be [a good baserunning team]," Francona said. "That's more important to me than the number of stolen bases. Not getting doubled off on line drives, going first to third, things like that. That's more important to me than the number of stolen bases we have."
In addition to going from first to third on a hit, the Indians' speed is expected to put pressure on opposing defenses, something Francona has experience managing against.
"When you go into a series [against a team that can run], you better throw the ball where it is supposed to go, or they will run you into errors/mistakes and embarrass you."
Forcing opponents to make the right defensive play is certainly the Indians' goal, but there is a time and place to be aggressive on the basepaths. Cleveland hopes to use its speed to force mistakes and generate additional offense, but that does not mean the Indians will run wild.
Francona still wants his guys to be smart and pick their spots.
"However you produce runs, that's the idea," Francona said. "We want to push, and we want to be intelligent. Our job as coaches and managers is to put guys in positions where they can use their tools. If they can run, we will let them run."
Francona's message to Swisher: Be yourself
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Nick Swisher's four-year, $56 million contract is the largest the Indians have given to a free agent.
The 32-year-old outfielder was born in Columbus, Ohio, and despite signing a record deal and joining his hometown team, manager Terry Francona does not expect Swisher to press.
History has shown some players get off to slow starts or slump when trying to live up to big contracts, but Swisher has an infectious, stress-free, fun-loving personality that Francona believes will never fade.
"I think that's how he will be every day," Francona said. "I don't think that'll ever change. He wakes up, and he's the same every day."
Over his nine-year career, Swisher is a .256 hitter, but he is coming off of a very productive season in New York. With the Yankees in 2012, Swisher hit for a career-high average of .272 and drove in 93 runs.
"That's the one thing I reminded him the day he signed," Francona said. "I just said, 'Be yourself. You don't have to do more. That's why we signed you: we like what you do."
• Brantley, who had stitches removed from his forearm Thursday, has resumed workouts and will resume playing in games shortly. Francona said Brantley would be OK to play Saturday, but he did not want to make Brantley travel to Mesa for one at-bat. Cleveland has a home game Sunday, and it is expected that Brantley will be in the lineup.
• Closer Chris Perez said Sunday remained his target date to begin throwing. Perez is nursing an injured right shoulder and said he felt no pain in it.
• Trevor Bauer is scheduled to pitch in the Indians' Minor League game Saturday. Bauer has pitched seven innings this spring and allowed two earned runs with a 2.57 ERA.
William Boor is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.