Tuesday, February 03, 2004

Bolstering Burrell | As all Phillies fans -- not to mention Shallow Center readers -- know, Pat Burrell in 2003 was more Pat the Bunny than Pat the Bat. To his credit, Burrell never ducked the media inquiries, never denied that he was letting his team down, and now he's in Florida for a couple of weeks of pre-training with Larry Bowa and Charlie Manuel. The Daily News's Marcus Hayes is in Clearwater and files a story today on Day 1 of what he calls "Camp Burrell," the Phils' attempt to erase the memory of last season from the once and future slugger's mind:

Bowa and Manuel exited the cages delighted.

"He came in with a completely different swing, as far as where he stands, where he's holding his hands," Bowa said. "That's a tribute to him. He could have very easily sat his butt at home and said, 'I'll go out there Feb. 1 and start all over.' But he didn't." . . .

"We talked about some things over the course of the winter,'' Burrell said. "It's just at the point now where you start working on the stroke, get back in the groove. It was a good first day."

So good, in fact, that Bowa figures Burrell is way ahead of the curve.

"He was closer to the plate. His hands were down. He's definitely worked. He's made adjustments without talking to anybody, which, to me, is a big plus," Bowa said.

Not that any of these adjustments is new to Burrell, Bowa said: "These are things Charlie talked to him about last year: 'You might want to move a little closer. Drop your hands.' The fact that he went out there and did it himself..."

If Burrell recovers his stroke, he'll join Jim Thome in a power pair unseen in Philadelphia since the Schmidt-Luzinksi glory days, which is all the more reason to hope that Bowa and Manuel succeed. What appears to be in Burrell's favor is his mental makeup. Burrell never quit last season, and the Philly faithful responded with remarkable and unusual encouragement through 162 games of wild swinging (and missing) and low-and-away breaking stuff. He seems to be a resilient kid -- the kind, one hopes, who can acknowledge but not dwell on past failures while looking to the future.


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