Released by Tampa Bay on May 15 after a disappointing stint with the Rays, veteran slugger Pat Burrell set his sights on returning to the National League and, more important, to the outfield in an attempt to revive his career.
The 33-year-old Burrell — who signed a minor league deal with the San Francisco Giants on Saturday and joined their Triple-A affiliate, the Fresno Grizzlies, on Sunday — blamed most of his struggles in Tampa on the fact he failed to adjust to life as a designated hitter.
“The designated hitter was a very tough role for me to figure out. I actually didn’t figure it out,” Burrell said Wednesday at Cashman Field before starting in left field and going 0-for-2 with two RBIs in Fresno’s 6-4 victory over the 51s (22-32). “I’ve heard all along some guys can do it and some guys are meant to play in the field. I think I fall into that (latter) category.”
Burrell has started fast with the Pacific Coast League-leading Grizzlies (34-19), going 5-for-14 (.357) with a homer, double, six RBIs and four runs in four games.
“I kind of have a rejuvenated sense of playing,” he said. “Being part of something different, I think, is a huge key.”
Burrell signed a $16 million, two-year contract with the Rays before last season, but then his production dipped dramatically. He batted .221 with 14 homers and 64 RBIs in 122 games after averaging 29 homers and 93 RBIs in his last eight years with Philadelphia.
This season was worse for “Pat the Bat” as he hit .202 (17-for-84) with two homers and 13 RBIs in 24 games for Tampa.
“It’s difficult because it’s such a good team,” he said. “They gave me a great opportunity. I just didn’t do what they brought me here to do, so fortunately for me, they gave me a chance to go and try somewhere else.”
The 6-foot-4-inch, 235-pound Burrell, who attended high school in the Bay Area and still has family there, called the Giants to gauge their interest.
“I thought I could still help and play and be productive, and the Giants were a team I called just for the simple fact I knew they were struggling offensively and I thought maybe since I’m from there it could be a nice fit — if it worked out,” he said.
Fresno manager Steve Decker has been impressed with Burrell so far.
“He looks healthy, he’s in great shape, and he’s got a quick bat right now,” he said.
If given the chance to play for the Giants, Burrell hopes he can pick up where he left off with the Phillies.
“I’m a little older, but the good thing for me is I’m about as healthy as I’ve been because I haven’t been playing the field,” he said. “That’s a big difference. I feel about as good as I have in a long time, so hopefully it will work out.”
■ NOTE — The Toronto Blue Jays sent pitcher Josh Roenicke to the 51s, who placed third baseman Kyle Phillips on the disabled list.
Contact reporter Todd Dewey at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0354.FRESNO — 6
LAS VEGAS — 4
KEY: Nelson Rojas drilled a two-run double to give the Grizzlies a 5-0 lead in the fourth inning.
NEXT: Grizzlies (RHP Eric Hacker) at 51s (LHP Marc Rzepczynski), 7:05 p.m. today, KBAD-AM (920)