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New Tampa Bay Rays DH Pat Burrell ready to adjust to new team, role

PORT CHARLOTTE — Putting names with numbers and faces will come to Pat Burrell. He has been good at that.

But working somewhere else, wearing Rays blue and bursts after nine seasons in Phillies red and having a new job with a significant change in routine; that all, he acknowledges, is going to take some getting used to.

"I can't lie, it's different," he said Monday morning. "The thing I keep thinking about it when you've been in a place like I was for a long time, you have a hard time turning the page and accepting some of the new things. You know, it's going to be an adjustment period for me. But, I tell you what, these guys have made it very easy for me as far as making me feel welcome and stuff like that. I couldn't be happier as for what's happened as far as me getting here."

The Rays made Burrell their big deal of the winter, committing $16 million over two seasons to put his right-handed bat somewhere in the middle of the lineup as their primary DH.

As much as he has to get adjusted to, it's the shift to DH that is of primary concern. As a National League player his whole career, and a starting leftfielder most of that time, he hasn't done it very often (97 at-bats over 22 games) and he hasn't done it very well (hitting .153 with one homer and seven RBIs).

"That's actually the more important issue," he said. "I'm trying to talk to as many guys as I can about that, (trying) to get the right mind-set. I think that's the whole deal, getting comfortable. Spring training is a good time for that."

He has already spoken with old buddy Jim Thome, a former Phillies teammate who with the White Sox is one of the best DHs, and others. He figures the hardest part will be coming up with a routine, or at least something to do, when the team is in the field.

"If I could just go stand behind Carl (Crawford) in left, I think it would be great," he said.

Rays officials, citing his power, production and plate discipline (an average of 31 homers, 99 RBIs and 103 walks the past four seasons) are certain he'll adjust. (Though they'll give him some outfield work this spring just in case something happens.) "I have full confidence that he'll be able to handle it and handle it well," executive vice president Andrew Friedman said, "but it's certainly going to be an adjustment for him."

And having heard raves about what a professional, hard worker and good teammate Burrell was in Philadelphia, they are already impressed with his approach.

"It's not often," manager Joe Maddon said, "that you get a guy that's switching to that role that all of a sudden he's going to start making phone calls in the off-season and seeking advice like he already has."

Burrell, 32, was equally impressed with the Rays last season and, drawing a parallel with how the Phillies developed into champions during his tenure, is eager to be part of their success.

He knows there may be some awkward moments, such as when he gets his Phillies championship ring, though he has already decided he's not going to wear it around the clubhouse. "Everybody remembers what happened, there's no need to bring that up," he said.

Having been the face of the Phillies franchise for a while, with all the good and bad that comes with that in Philadelphia, he has accepted it was time to move on and said he just wants to fit in.

From the look of the clubhouse Monday morning, as he sat and swapped stories with Troy Percival, and the sounds of his new teammates — "I heard he's a riot," B.J. Upton said. "It seems like he fits right into the atmosphere over here, and what we're trying to do" — that shouldn't be a problem.

"I'm here to help," Burrell said. "The core of this team is homegrown and you have some unreal players here. Anything I can do to help, I'm here."

Marc Topkin can be reached at topkin@sptimes.com.

New Tampa Bay Rays DH Pat Burrell ready to adjust to new team, role 02/16/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, February 17, 2009 9:45am]
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