Ex-Phil Burrell set to take swings against former mates

Former Phillie Pat Burrell had 18 homers and 51 RBIs along with a .364 on-base percentage in 96 games with the Giants.
Former Phillie Pat Burrell had 18 homers and 51 RBIs along with a .364 on-base percentage in 96 games with the Giants.
Posted: October 13, 2010

ATLANTA - The celebration in the visitors' clubhouse at Turner Field was at full bore late Monday night with the sound of beer cans popping open and Giants players showering one another with the brew, their whoops and hollers creating a din.

Off in a corner stood Pat Burrell, arms folded and smiling, a picture of quiet, calm content, like a proud father at a college commencement.

"I couldn't be happier for this group, especially for the guys who've had their first chance to do this," he said. "So here we go. We're going to get ready for Philly, a big series, and hopefully, we can get to the next level."

Indeed, Pat Burrell is coming back to Philly, where he left a lasting memory on Oct. 31, 2008, by leading the Phillies World Series championship parade atop a carriage powered by Clydesdale horses with his dog, Elvis, by his side.

He then endeared himself to Phillies fans by taking out a newspaper advertisement thanking them for their support, even though many of those fans frequently had let him have it during some of his prolonged slumps in his nine seasons in a Phillies uniform.

Burrell signed a free-agent contract before the start of the 2009 season with the Tampa Bay Rays. But when he was awarded his World Series ring (alongside many of the Phillies he'll be competing against in the National League Championship Series) at Citizens Bank Park, he received a rousing ovation.

And he got a standing ovation his first time at Citizens Bank Park as a Giant in mid-August. This time, though, the stakes are much higher.

"I don't know," he said with a laugh when asked what kind of reception he anticipated from the Citizens Bank Park crowd Saturday when the Phillies and Giants play Game 1 of the NLCS. "It could go either way. It's going to be exciting, and that's all you can say. I'm looking forward to going back, the whole deal. We're going to try to go there and win."

Burrell, who turned 34 Sunday, is returning as the wise veteran, a human scouting report for his San Francisco teammates.

"The Phillies are tough," he said. "You don't get to the World Series two years in a row unless you're good, and they know they're good. So we'll see how it goes. Obviously, we'll probably be the underdog. We'll go in there and give it our best shot."

Burrell didn't see this coming for the Giants. How could he? For 10 days in May, he was out of baseball, dropped by the Rays for largely being unproductive in the first 24 games he played.

Desperate to put some muscle in their lineup, the Giants signed him to a minor-league contract May 29 and sent him to the Fresno Grizzlies. A week later, Burrell was called up, and he gave the Giants what they wanted, hitting .266 with 18 home runs and 51 RBIs in 96 games.

"Personally, for the Giants to give me a chance to come out here and be a part of this, I'm grateful and happy to help," he said.

Burrell is one of six Giants with World Series rings. His teammates believe his value to the team in the NLCS will go beyond a long-ball threat.

"The good news is we've got a guy over there named Burrell who was there [with the Phillies]," said first baseman Aubrey Huff, who had the game-tying hit in the ninth inning of the 3-2 win over the Braves in Game 3 of the NL division series. "He knows a lot of those guys, especially the hitters. He does his homework.

"What he's done since he came here is huge," he added. "He's been a great presence for us. He's basically been the leader, showing us how to take some pitches and be patient. To be able to celebrate with him means the world to me."

Burrell is noted for his patience at the plate. He led the Giants with an average of 4.22 pitches per plate appearance and ranked second on the club with 47 walks and a .364 on-base percentage.

"We saw great pitching [by the Braves] and we're going to see even better pitching [by the Phillies]," he said.

Huff indicated the Giants will improve their chance for an upset if they adopt Burrell's approach against the Phillies' imposing starters - Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt, and Cole Hamels.

"We're going to have to be patient, wait for our pitch to hit, scratch out some runs," Huff said. "It's going to be a tough, tough battle."

Burrell, who hit a three-run homer in the first inning of Game 2, which the Braves came back to win in 11 innings, 5-4, has hit seven homers that either tied the game or gave the Giants the lead.

But his most memorable long balls came in Game 4 of the NLDS in 2008, when he hit two homers and had four RBIs in the series-clinching 6-2 win over Milwaukee. It was the first time the Phillies had won a playoff series since 1993.

So in a way, Burrell began the Phillies' current run of success.

Now he has a chance to end it.


Contact staff writer Ray Parrillo at 215-854-2743 or rparrillo@phillynews.com.

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