Friday, August 13, 2010

Pat the Bat Is Back

If the Giants reach the promised land known as the playoffs this year, some of the credit will go to a big guy with a nickname that sounds like it might have come from a children's book: Pat the Bat.

That would be outfielder Pat Burrell, who's been reborn in his native Bay Area after his career cratered in the dismal confines of Tampa's Tropicana Field. Burrell signed with the Rays after spending 9 years in Phillies pinstripes. He was a steady source of Philadelphia power: over 9 seasons in Philly, Burrell averaged 28 homers and 87 RBI a year.

After the Phillies' World Series title in '08, Burrell was cast adrift. He headed south to Tampa Bay, and his career went south, too. His 14 home runs last year marked the lowest total of his career. And when he started this year with more wimpy numbers, he was gone. The Rays cut him in late May and the Giants grabbed him.

Since then, Burrell has been huge for the Giants. He's hitting right around .300, has homered once every 15 at bats, and has a whole slew of big RBI's. He's a capable outfielder and by all accounts, a good clubhouse guy. His old college buddy Aubrey Huff nearly decapitated Burrell with a smack to the helmet after Burrell's grand slam against the Cubs. That's how ballplayers show their love.

Who knows what went wrong in Tampa? It might have been the designated-hitter role. Burrell practically never played defense during his Tampa Bay stay. Sure, his nickname is Pat the Bat, but maybe Pat likes to use his glove, too.

At any rate, Burrell's emerged as an enormous piece of the puzzle as the Giants face a fascinating
final seven weeks of the season. To paraphrase Dr. Seuss, Pat the Bat is back.

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