Healthy again, Pat Burrell is trying to find swing

ST. PETERSBURG — DH Pat Burrell is healthy, the neck strain that sidelined him for more than a month finally healed.

Now it's a matter of feeling better at the plate, an uncertain process that makes his return to the active roster a day-by-day proposition. After going 1-for-9 with four strikeouts in two rehab games for Double-A Montgomery, he'll play for Class A Charlotte tonight then re-evaluate, with the options of being activated Friday or playing additional rehab games.

"I've got to get some baseball skills back," Burrell said. "That's the frustrating part. You've got to be realistic, too, being out for five weeks, there's a part of it you have to get back. I think some of the things that, with (my neck) bothering me, there's some bad habits that were developed and I have to get back to where I'm productive."
The Rays would welcome the production they expected when signing him to a two-year, $16 million contract, though the timing of his return isn't ideal, even less so if it's not until Saturday or Sunday.

After the weekend games against Washington, Burrell will be of limited use as a pinch-hitter as the Rays play six games without the DH in interleague series with the Rockies and Mets.

To make room for Burrell, they seem likely to send OF Matt Joyce back to Triple A or part with INF Joe Dillon, who is out of options and would be exposed to waivers. They will have to make another move next week (Dillon, or sending Reid Brignac to Triple A) if SS Jason Bartlett comes off the DL as expected.

Burrell attributed his lack of production through his first 30 games — a .250 average, one homer, 17 RBIs, five extra-base hits — to the neck problem. "It bothered me; I've dealt with this in the past, but it never got to the point where I didn't feel like I could perform," Burrell said. "It just got to the point where I wasn't helping, it was on my mind constantly, and I had to deal with the problem. I don't think there's anything I could have done differently.

"There's no excuses. I'm on the field, I'm playing. This is a game where you got to produce. Yesterday doesn't count."

He remains confident he is capable of his past production: "It's there. Just gotta find it. Maybe it will show up tonight on my door. But it's there."

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