Maddon confident in slumping Burrell
Skipper believes DH still adjusting, dealing with ailing neck
NEW YORK -- Pat Burrell is hitless in his past 11 at-bats and is 2-for-20 in his past five games. In addition, he has just one home run and 12 RBIs this season. So yes, the veteran slugger is experiencing an early-season slump.
When asked about Burrell prior to Thursday night's game against the Yankees, Rays manager Joe Maddon did not sound too concerned.
"One thing about Pat, he doesn't push a panic button," Maddon said. "He's still working through some things."
Burrell has been suffering the effects of a stiff neck, which Maddon believes is a contributing factor for Burrell's frustration.
"I don't think he's going to talk to me about it, but I still believe his neck is a little bit of a problem," Maddon said. "I still think it's a little bit stiff. You really have to be able to turn your face to the pitcher fully.
"So I think that's still a small issue he's not going to discuss. I think as he starts to feel better, you're going to see better results from him also."
Save for the current season, Burrell has spent his entire career in the National League, which means he always played the outfield unless the Phillies, his former team, were playing an Interleague game. Maddon believes the combination of seeing a lot of new pitching in a different league and adjusting to the designated hitter role have contributed to the slump.
"I think it's a combo," Maddon said. "I do believe adjusting to the DH role does take time. People watching from the outside see it as a relatively easy role. You're not on the field. There's so much time to be absorbed, so much time to think. It's really not that easy. I still think he's adjusting on several different levels.
"But you talk to him every day and he's still the same guy, goes about his business the same way. He's got a strong belief system. He's been through the baseball wars in Philadelphia. He'll be fine."
Burrell has been streaky throughout his career, so Maddon figures the pendulum will swing in the Rays' favor before long.
"He's going to pretty much have the same numbers at the end of this year that he's shown the last couple of years," Maddon said. "That's going to happen. I firmly believe that. So it looks like we're in for some nice gifts in the near future. I don't see it being any different. He's just adjusting right now."
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.