DETROIT -- If there's one thing Ryan Raburn is taking away from his 2009 stint in the Major Leagues, it's that pressure and hitting don't always mix. Learning that has been the key to his recent hot hitting after a slow start.
"I was probably pressuring a little bit, because I didn't make the team out of spring and I wanted to make a good impression," Raburn said." You can't play this game under pressure. You have to be as relaxed as possible."
After getting only two singles in his first 21 at-bats, Raburn has surged in his past 24 at-bats, notching 10 hits, including home runs in three consecutive games and his second career grand slam.
Still, manager Jim Leyland has found it difficult to give the outfielder as many at-bats as he would like to, as he shuffles between Raburn and other young outfielders Josh Anderson and Clete Thomas. After playing five games in six days last week, Raburn has played just one of six games since.
But against knuckleballer Tim Wakefield on Thursday, Leyland saw the opportunity to work the righty-hitting Raburn into the seven-spot in the lineup, as he tests the old theory that right-handers fare better against knuckleballers.
"He needs a game," Leyland said. "Plus, I'll take a shot at one of those theories that the right-hander maybe being better. I don't know if that's right."
Raburn isn't sure he believes the righties vs. knuckleballers theory, either. He said his experience against knuckleballers isn't great against the few he saw during his time in the Minor Leagues. But one of his Minor League managers gave him a piece of advice he'll take to the plate today.
"If you see it high, let it fly," Raburn said of hitting a knuckleball. "Most of those knuckleballs, they tend to fall. I guess your best chance is the one that's up."
As with any player, Raburn would like to play as much as possible. But not getting the chance every day has led him to value the opportunities he does get.
"Of course you're not going to be playing every day, so you can't take one game for granted and just say, 'Oh, there will be tomorrow,'" Raburn said.
Kyle Austin is an associate reporter for MLB.com This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.