02/14/07 4:22 PM ET
Burrell happy to enter '07 with Phils
After offseason of trade rumors, left fielder eager to help club
By Ken Mandel / MLB.com
"Not bad for the worst player in the league," Burrell joked. "If I had the 100 at-bats, I think the numbers would be similar and we wouldn't be having this conversation. If you told me last year that I was going to get 450 at-bats and hit 29 homers and drive in 95 runs, I'd be pretty pleased with that."Despite the subpar totals -- he did hit 23 points lower -- Burrell was seventh in the NL in RBI ratio, driving in a run every 4.86 at-bats, and he was eighth in go-ahead RBIs (29). Granted, he hit fifth in the league's most potent offense, so generating some of those RBIs came more easily, but Burrell knows what's expected. "Runners in scoring position is a great stat for the team," he said. "It's hard enough to be successful in any situation, but to not be successful there, that's something I take a lot of pride in. It's one of those things that mentally you have to be prepared for, and sometimes that can be tough. Everyone sets goals, and my goal has always been to hit 30 home runs and [have] 100 RBIs, but the 100 is more important than anything for me. It's a long season, so you just got to get them where you can." Burrell understands that he's going to collect his share of strikeouts, especially on inside pitches, and contends that most hitters have difficulty handling similar pitches. He suggested he wasn't prepared to sit out as often as he did in the season's second half, and that affected his timing and confidence.
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"Everybody has strengths and weaknesses, and the problem I've had is not taking advantage of the pitches I should hit," he said. "Then you get to the point in the at-bat where you're behind and have to fight. The biggest thing for me is to be aggressive at pitches in the zone that I can hit and not miss them."When Green spoke out about Burrell's off-the-field activities in December, he suggested that Burrell get his priorities in order. "Guys like him are tough to come by," Green said then. "He has to look in the mirror and recognize where his career is headed. This is a crossroad for him. Pat's a good-looking guy, is single and has a lot of money. That brings distractions. It's how you handle those distractions and whether you can look in the mirror and recognize that maybe those distractions are hurting you." Burrell, who recently got engaged, took exception to Green's words. "It's disappointing to hear things like that," Burrell said. "But I've always thought that anything that doesn't apply to this game is personal and shouldn't be talked about by anybody, let alone people within the organization. I've known Dallas a long time and I believe there was really no harm in what he said. He didn't mean it that way. There's no sense in bringing up things from the past. My time is my time. It's time to move on." Burrell used the phrase "move on" often on Wednesday, and he meant it. He likes his teammates and wants to be a productive part of the lineup. He said his troublesome right foot that bothered him last season, despite having been operated on the previous winter, feels great again, though he said that last season, too. Like most starters, Burrell loathes days off and isn't the happiest guy on the bench. That said, he appeared resigned to his fate last season, when Manuel preferred to use David Dellucci or Jeff Conine in left. Burrell said he was OK with then, and he understands there are no guarantees this season. He'll play as long as he's healthy and productive. "I'm just a piece of the puzzle," he said. "If I'm not playing and we're winning, I have to accept that for what it is. What I was trying to do [in September 2006] was make the most of the time that I was in there. Moving forward, the big thing is me being healthy and being able to be out there for the entire game." In other words, it's time to move on.
Ken Mandel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.