Manuel Believes Burrell's Career Is Peaking

(Photo: Tom Mihalek/AP)

Pat Burrell is helping to carry the Phillies and is putting up the type of numbers fans always dreamed that they would see from him. So, is the reason the chance for a big pay day or is there something else? Charlie Manuel thinks he knows what's going on.

Pat Burrell is in the midst of the greatest offensive streak of his career, and there are plenty of reasons for his success.

Just ask Phillies manager Charlie Manuel.

"It's the best I've seen him hit because he's been driving the ball to right field," said Manuel, a hitting guru. "He's got a better set up. He's got a little rhythm going. And he's got a quick bat. Right now, his swing is powerful."

But there may be another explanation. For the first time in his career, Burrell is playing for new contract.

Like former Phillies center fielder Aaron Rowand last year, Burrell is eligible to be a free agent at season's end. And, after the expiration of the six-year, $50 million contract extension he signed in 2003, Burrell, at age 31, could position himself for another sizable payday with a strong season.

Rowand had a career-best offensive season in 2007, batting .309 with 45 doubles, 27 home runs and 89 RBI, and parlayed that into a five-year, $60 million contract from the Giants in December. Burrell, batting .330 with nine home runs and 30 RBIs in 32 games through Sunday, is on pace for even better numbers.

"It could have something to do with it," Manuel said of the notion that players may have more success during a contract year. "If that helps, that's good. If (the money) is there, go get it. The better he does, the better I do.

"At the same time, when I see Pat, he's definitely working hard. He's maturing, too. Sometimes, you don't really come into your own until your late 20s, early 30s. You learn more about your hitting. He's always had the talent to be a real good player, and now, he's showing how good he can be."

Burrell's hot streak began before the All-Star break last season. Since last July 1, he has 95 RBIs, tied with Milwaukee's Ryan Braun for the most in the majors.

Meanwhile, Chase Utley is also having a career-year and he's already got his money.

Utley leads the majors with 13 homers through 32 games for the Phillies, putting him on pace to shatter his career-high of 32 homers, set in 2006. But manager Charlie Manuel doesn't want to guess how many long balls his All-Star second baseman might hit. "I'll just let him play, let him enjoy it," Manuel said. "He just works everyday and tries to improve. He wants to be the best he can be. He's going to give you everything he's got every day. What he does doesn't surprise me. I'm glad he's on my team." Utley was named the NL Player of the Month for April on Saturday. In 27 games during the month, he batted .352 (38-for-108) with 10 doubles, 21 RBIs, 23 homers and a majors-leading 10 home runs.

Phillies Notepad:

  • Manager Charlie Manuel won his 500th game as a Major League skipper Sunday when slumping slugger Ryan Howard raced home from second base on an error by Giants 2B Eugenio Velez in the ninth inning. Manuel is 500-428 (.539 winning percentage) in five-plus seasons at the helm of the Indians and Phillies. In his fourth season with the Phillies, he is 280-238 (.541 winning percentage). "I want to win 500 more," said Manuel, who signed a two-year contract extension after last season. "I attribute that to the players I've had along the way. A manager is only as good as the players he manages."
  • Jimmy Rollins reported Sunday to the Phillies' facility in Clearwater, where he'll begin a rehab stint Monday in extended spring training games. Rollins, on the disabled list since April 20 with a sprained left ankle, hopes to return for the Phillies' series finale Thursday in Arizona. "It feels real good," said Rollins, who injured his ankle April 8. Told that Diamondbacks ace Brandon Webb will pitch Thursday, Rollins joked, "Maybe I'll wait until Friday to come back." Either way, Rollins wants to play this weekend in San Francisco. He's a native of nearby Alameda, California, and he said he'd like to play at AT&T Park on Mother's Day. Rollins was eligible to be activated from the disabled list Monday.
  • Pedro Feliz insisted he didn't treat last weekend any differently, even though he was facing his former team for the first time since signing with the Phillies as a free agent in late January. "It's the same as any other series, as far as I'm concerned," Feliz said. "Just play well and move on to the next series." Feliz, who was mystified about why the Giants didn't want to re-sign him, went 3-for-8 with a home run and two RBI in the three-game series. He will make his return to AT&T Park next weekend when the Phillies visit San Francisco for a three-game series.
  • Brett Myers played long-toss and studied video between starts last week, trying to figure out where his fastball velocity had gone. He seemingly found some answers. Myers' fastball climbed back into the low-90s Saturday night after dipping into the mid-80s in his previous start, and he stuck with the pitch rather than relying on his cutter. The result: Myers allowed two runs in seven strong innings and struck out a season-high 10 batters against the Giants. "I looked back (at the radar-gun reading on the scoreboard), and once I saw what I wanted to see, I was able to keep throwing it and pitch off it," Myers said. "I was able to locate it and throw it enough where it set the rest of my pitches up." Myers, the Phillies' opening-day starter, is 2-2 with a 4.70 ERA in seven starts.


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