PORT CHARLOTTE — The Rays had their reasons to make Pat Burrell the marquee offseason addition.
They like his power, his patience at the plate and the way he works at-bats. They relish the protection he adds to their lineup, the balance of another right-handed bat and the personality he brings to their already harmonic clubhouse.
But with Burrell's former Phillies team in town Thursday, old manager Charlie Manuel offered something else for the Rays to savor.
"Pat's capable of really putting up big years," Manuel said. "I don't think he's had his biggest year yet. I think his best years are still ahead of him."
The Rays would be happy with what Burrell, 32, has been doing the past four seasons, averaging 31 homers, 99 RBIs and 103 walks.
They figure that between the production he provides and what his presence does for the rest of the lineup, they'll be considerably more offensive.
"He'll have a very substantial impact," first baseman Carlos Peña said. "What he does is obvious. He brings a huge bat to our lineup, and the funny thing is he doesn't have to come out and rescue the world. All he has to do is be himself, and that's going to be more than enough."
Manager Joe Maddon said that Burrell will improve the entire Rays lineup, which sounds more and more like it might start with B.J. Upton followed by Carl Crawford, Evan Longoria, Peña, Burrell, the platoon rightfielders (Gabe Gross and Gabe Kapler), Dioner Navarro, Jason Bartlett and Akinori Iwamura.
Specifically, Burrell will force teams not to pitch around Longoria and Peña and throw more pitches overall, which should benefit the hitters behind him.
Crawford calls it "the fear factor."
Peña is even more blunt: "I don't know how somebody can say, 'Let me pitch around Carlos so I can pitch to Pat.' I'm like, 'What for? Why would you do that?' "
Phillies slugger Ryan Howard can relate, having seen the impact Burrell can have from the spot in front of him in the batting order.
"First off, he can add a lot of leadership, just teaching the game," Howard said. "As far as what he can provide in their lineup, he's going to work the pitchers. He gets walks. He tries to get himself a good pitch to hit by getting deep into counts. He's also going to provide a pretty nice little bang in there as well."
The only concern is how Burrell, the Phillies' full-time leftfielder the past eight years, will handle the transition to designated hitter.
He admits it's an ongoing process as he experiments with different ways to stay loose (running in place in the dugout) and has consulted former teammates Jim Thome and Chili Davis.
"I know I'm going to be somebody that needs to be active and not sit down," Burrell said.
Thome said Thursday in Glendale, Ariz., that he was happy to help, and the key is developing a routine.
"Let's face it: Pat has been an everyday leftfielder, and DH-ing is different," said Thome, 38, the White Sox's DH. "But I'm sure he'll do fine."
Manuel predicts a few big hits will ease the transition. "When he gets used to the DH, he has a chance to be real good," he said.
"He would DH a lot in interleague play. And he never got used to it, and he didn't have a lot of success (.153 average). Once he starts having success, you'll see a completely different guy."
When Burrell gets comfortable, opposing teams are going to be anything but.
"That's not the easiest lineup you want to have to pitch to," Howard said, "especially when all those guys are going hot. He's in a good situation over there."
Burrell likes the way it looks.
"You just hope to be in a situation where you have a chance to drive in some runs," he said. "That's what I'm here for."
Among other things.
Marc Topkin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org