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New Tampa Bay Rays DH Burrell is an interesting player, maybe a more interesting person

The Rays are expecting a lot from new DH Pat Burrell, whom they signed this week to a two-year, $16-million contract, and he has a lot to offer them on and off the field.

Here are a few things to know:

He is more than all right

Burrell is known for his power, hitting 33 homers last season (only three right-handers in the NL had more) and averaging 31 over the past four.

His primary appeal to the Rays is his strong performance against left-handed pitchers, especially since their other hitters have struggled, but he's not that bad against righties.

Against LHPs, his career numbers are .276 with a .410 on-base percentage and .540 slugging percentage for a .950 OPS.

Against RHPs: .251, .352, .467, .819.

Some of his more advanced stats are also favorable; for instance, he ranks fifth overall in pitches per plate appearance (4.18) against right-handers.

Also, despite playing in hitter-friendly Citizens Bank Park the past five years, his numbers are pretty equal between home (.272 average, 74 homers, 253 RBIs) and road (.250, 74, 226).

One concern: He has a career .153 average in 22 games/85 at-bats as a DH, with one homer and seven RBIs.

He was popular with the guys

Burrell, 32, was a favorite — one way or the other — of the notoriously rabid fans during his nine years in Philadelphia.

He was even more popular with his teammates, who raved regularly about his toughness, work ethic and presence.

"It's going to be a little different around the clubhouse," second baseman Chase Utley said recently. "You can't replace the personality that he brings to the field every day. He really is a special individual. It's going to be tough a little bit at first. He's a guy who kind of took me under his wing when I first got to the big leagues and sort of showed me the ropes."

And with the women

Before getting married in November 2007, Burrell was known to enjoy the single life. He would get out and about, would pop up in the Philadelphia gossip pages (dating Heather Mitts among others) and did a rather, um, revealing and racy 2001 interview with Penthouse, detailing some of his preferences at the time.

A photo of him working out shirtless, originally shot by the Phillies for a calendar, is all over the Internet. He had a fan club called Burrell's Babes.

And he earned a second nickname, Pat the Bait. The story behind that, as relayed by the Philadelphia Inquirer:

"During Burrell's first few years with the club, before he was married, the older players used to command him to make appearances at the bar while the Phillies were on the road. They dangled him as 'bait' to attract women."

He took a big pay cut

Burrell was the highest-paid Phillie last year when he made $14-million. And the year before when he made $13-million. And the second highest-paid the year before that when he made $9.75-million, all from a six-year, $50-million deal he signed in January 2003, and part of $58-million in career earnings.

He'll get a lot less from the Rays, who benefited from the depressed economy and glutted market — $7-million this season (less than Carl Crawford, $8.25-million, and Carlos Pena, $8-million) and $9-million in 2010. He gets $2-million of his 2009 salary before spring training, and a $200,000 bonus if traded.

There were reports in Philly last season that Burrell turned down a two-year, $22-million extension, but Burrell told the Daily News there were only "preliminary talks" and no offers. Reds GM Walt Jocketty, however, told this week the Rays' offer "was half of what Burrell was looking for."

He has bay area ties

Burrell owns a 15th floor condo on Sand Key in Clearwater valued at $1.4-million, and a 4,300-square-foot home on a golf course in Tarpon Springs worth about $1-millon.

He is part of a trivia question

Burrell is making an unusual move going from one World Series participant to the other between seasons. According to the Elias Sports Bureau and ESPN's Jayson Stark, there have been only four players — and two position players — since 1970 to play in the Series and play their first game the next season for the other team:

Don Gullett, 1976 Reds to Yankees; Tommy John, 1978 Dodgers to Yankees; Gary Thomasson, 1978 Yankees to Dodgers; Edgar Renteria, 2004 Cardinals to Red Sox.

New Tampa Bay Rays DH Burrell is an interesting player, maybe a more interesting person 01/07/09 [Last modified: Thursday, January 8, 2009 10:58pm]
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