Ann Killion
Thursday October 14th, 2010

Can Pat Burrell's years in Philadelphia give the San Francisco Giants some inside knowledge?


"Go tell your family to buy an [Chase] Utley jersey. Don't wear ours," Burrell said.

Yep, Burrell, 34, knows the Philly fans. Knows the Philly mindset. Knows how Philly became the most dominant team in the National League.

It was knowledge that was going to waste until the Giants called him last May and gave him a job. And now, wearing the uniform of the team he grew up rooting for, Burrell will face the team he helped lead to a World Series title just two years ago.

"It couldn't have worked out any better for me," Burrell said.

The Giants are a team of castoffs and kids, a concoction of great pitching and reclamation projects who have been given second chances. No discard has had a bigger impact than Burrell.

A former No. 1 draft pick of the Phillies, Burrell was sitting on his couch in May, thinking his career was over after having been released by the Rays. He had signed with Tampa Bay before the 2009 season, just a couple months after helping the Phillies beat the Rays in the World Series the previous October. After batting only .221 with a career-low 14 home runs in 2009, he had just two home runs and 13 RBIs in 24 games this season before Tampa Bay cut him on May 19.

Burrell called his old University of Miami teammate Aubrey Huff to give him the news. Huff started lobbying the Giants to take a look at Burrell, who grew up in the nearby Santa Cruz mountains and went to Bellarmine Prep in San Jose. The Giants signed Burrell to a minor-league contract on May 29.

"One man's trash is another man's treasure," Huff said.

Burrell has been a jewel for the Giants. He joined them on the road in early June. In his first home game in San Francisco, he hit a home run. In 96 games he has 18 homers and 51 RBIs, adding some juice to a struggling lineup.

And he's provided clubhouse leadership and a veteran presence. That may surprise some people -- in the past he's been called a negative clubhouse presence, a bad influence on younger players. The Giants, in contrast, can't say enough good things about Burrell.

"He enjoys what he's doing and people gravitate to that," said rookie catcher Buster Posey, who was called up by the Giants a few days before Burrell was signed. "You don't want to follow somebody who's in a bad mood or doesn't seem like he's having fun. The guy is fun. He's been great with me."

Posey said he will sit down with Burrell to get his insight into the Phillies' impressive lineup. Burrell knows it well -- having watched it evolve from a last-place team in 2000, the first year he was called up, to world champions in his final season.

"We had a pretty good group of guys," Burrell said. "We had a good corps, who believed in one another. We went through losing seasons when we didn't have a chance to win. The first year we made the playoffs [2007] we got swept. And we decided we were better than that."

As the top draft pick in a notoriously tough sports town, Burrell carried heavy expectations. "There were a lot of expectations, but no more than I put on myself, " he said.

He was booed. And he was cheered. After the Phillies won the World Series, Burrell led the parade, riding on a beer truck with his dog Elvis by his side. When the Giants played in Philadelphia in August, Burrell received a standing ovation from the crowd.

"It was great going there -- that will help me get past all that," he said.

Now he's a human scouting report for the Giants, who can help prepare them for the NL Championship Series, which begins in Philadelphia on Saturday night. Asked how much insight he can provide, Burrell shrugged. "I'm prepared for the environment, that's for sure," he said.

Scouting report No. 1: Be careful of what your family wears in the stands.

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