Burrell coming around at the plate
Rays slugger has put early-season struggles behind him
BOSTON -- Pat Burrell is showing signs of life with the bat.
The veteran Rays slugger has been tepid at the plate in the early going of the season, but in the past three games, he is 5-for-13 and has driven in a run in each of the games.
Earlier in the week, Rays manager Joe Maddon said he expected Burrell to find his groove, noting that a veteran of his stature would not be prone to push the panic button. That said, being in a slump is never an easy thing for a hitter, not matter how long he's been in the Major Leagues.
"Yeah, I know personally, it's no fun when you're doing everything you're supposed to do," Burrell said. "Sometimes it can be a thing where you just press too much. And you try to do too much. And the more you think about it, the worse it gets. But it's hard not to think about it because it's your job. It's difficult when you're going through these things. You just have to grind it out.
"You catch yourself and think, 'Here we go.' It's never easy to not be successful. That's what we're here to do. And it's one thing if you're hitting the ball all over the park and guys are catching it. But when you're not really hitting it that good, then you've got two things to worry about."
Maddon made a suggestion to Burrell about a "minute" thing he'd noticed.
"We talked the other night," Burrell said. "He noticed some different things with the stance. And when you're not doing well, you try different things. But it's nice to have somebody on the outside looking in, too. Sometimes those outside people can see some things that maybe you're just not seeing. And it's helpful to have that."
In addition to coming around with the bat, Burrell seems to have caught the speed bug from his teammates. In Saturday afternoon's 14-5 win over the Red Sox, Burrell stole his first base since Sept. 30, 2004, when he did it for the Phillies against the Marlins. The successful steal of second came after the pitcher threw behind him and the first baseman's throw to the shortstop covering second hit Burrell on his left arm.
"Oh man, talk about being out of your element," Burrell said. "I mean, I haven't stole a base in how many years? And the time I'm going they decide to [throw] over. Somebody knows something. I was going on the first pitch. I didn't know who threw the ball. The ball hit my arm pretty quick, so I didn't think [Boston catcher Jason] Varitek threw it. I went to slide and had my arms up for whatever reason. Weird."
When asked about Burrell's stolen base and being informed of how long it had been since Burrell had stole a base, Carl Crawford replied: "Sneak attack."
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.