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Tampa Bay Rays' Pat Burrell looking forward to returning to Philadelphia

Pat Burrell talks with former teammate Ryan Howard during a Rays spring training game on Feb. 28 against the Phillies in Clearwater, where he got a nice reception from Phillies fans.

JAMES BORCHUCK | Times

Pat Burrell talks with former teammate Ryan Howard during a Rays spring training game on Feb. 28 against the Phillies in Clearwater, where he got a nice reception from Phillies fans.

PORT CHARLOTTE — DH Pat Burrell said he doesn't know quite what to expect when he returns today to Philadelphia, where he spent the first 10 years of his career in the Phillies organization and won the World Series last season.

But Burrell knows one thing: He can't wait to find out.

"I can't lie to you and say I'm not looking forward to it, because I am," said Burrell, who signed a two-year, $16 million contract with the Rays as a free agent in the offseason. "I think it's going to be an exciting kind of thing.

"It'll be nice to play in the stadium, with all the memories and all that good stuff. It's going to be different, I'm sure."

Burrell's final at-bat at Citizens Bank Park was a double that eventually led to the winning run in Game 5 of the World Series against the Rays. He then led the Phillies' championship parade downtown.

Burrell, 32, received a warm reception from Phillies fans when the Rays played them in spring training, from many giving a standing ovation in his first at-bat to autograph seekers flocking the visitor's dugout to chat with him; they are memories he said he'll never forget.

In March, he took out ads in Philadelphia's two main newspapers, thanking fans for their support in his career.

Burrell isn't sure if he will get the same treatment today.

"I'm just looking forward to the experience," he said. "I just don't know how it's going to turn out."

TUNE-UP: LHP Scott Kazmir makes his final spring start tonight at Citizens Bank Park, where he made his final one last season, in Game 5 of the World Series.

Kazmir said returning to Philadelphia is "fitting," and he hopes to just build off his last outing — arguably his best of the spring — in what will likely be a 50-60 pitch start.

"I'm just going to work on my fastball location and not try to do anything different, just get my routine down," he said. "That's what spring training is all about.

"So much of it is getting your arm in shape, but for the most part, it's getting into your routine."

WISE MOVE: LHP J.P. Howell has joked that this past month has been like a vacation, as he has pitched only five innings in spring training, partly due to his light workload in the World Baseball Classic (3 1/3 innings in a three-week stretch). The Rays had planned to ease Howell into camp, as the left-hander is coming off a season in which he tied for the major-league lead in relief innings pitched (89 1/3). Howell said the extra rest has paid off.

"I feel like this was the smart way to go about it," Howell said. "It happened all through luck and timing, the main thing was it's almost like I had my full rest even though we had a long season last year. The main thing is I was able to heal up."

upton update: CF B.J. Upton went 0-for-5 as DH in a minor-league exhibition Thursday. He'll be off today and then play seven innings in another exhibition Saturday (with five at-bats) and be DH Sunday.

On the bus: Beginning April 17, ESCOT Bus Lines will add three routes to provide transportation to and from Tropicana Field for Friday home games (routes service Pinellas, Hillsborough and Sarasota/Manatee counties). For more information, check ESCOTBusLines.com or call toll-free 1-888-571-7778.

Joe Smith can be reached at joesmith@sptimes.com.

Tampa Bay Rays' Pat Burrell looking forward to returning to Philadelphia 04/02/09 [Last modified: Friday, April 3, 2009 6:39am]

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