Burrell joins Giants; Bowker sent down

Burrell joins Giants; Bowker sent down

PITTSBURGH -- Pat Burrell, who averaged 143 games per year in his previous 10 Major League seasons, will begin his Giants tenure in an unusual position: seated on the bench.

That doesn't bother Burrell at all. Returning to the National League and joining the team he followed as a youth has left the 33-year-old as thrilled as a rookie.

"The way things have worked out, I couldn't be happier," said Burrell, the slugging outfielder whose contract was purchased Friday from Triple-A Fresno. "I'm here to help in any way they want me to."

For the near future, the right-handed-batting Burrell likely will serve as a pinch-hitter and as an occasional starter in left field, which he occupied with Philadelphia from 2000-08. Burrell's power potential, reflected by his 267 career home runs, was enough to prompt the Giants to sign him to a Minor League contract on Saturday.

Released by Tampa Bay on May 15 after hitting .202 with two homers and 13 RBIs in 24 games, Burrell needed only five games with Triple-A Fresno to convince Giants management that he had regained his big league edge. He hit .313 (5-for-16) with one home run, a double and six RBIs.

"It wasn't like he missed all year," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said of Burrell, a .253 career hitter with a .362 on-base percentage and a .473 slugging percentage. "The consensus was, he's ready."

Said Burrell: "I think the Giants and I probably would say that this came a little quicker than we would have expected."

After spending most of last season and this year as the Rays' designated hitter, Burrell figured he'd need some time to reacquaint himself with the outfield.

"There's no riding-a-bike deal," he said.

But he insisted that he felt comfortable after fielding his first fly ball.

At the outset, Burrell's biggest challenge will be handling the legions of well-wishers. A graduate of San Jose's Bellarmine College Prep, Burrell still has plenty of friends living in the Bay Area, as well as his parents, who reside in the Santa Cruz mountains, and a sister.

"My phone's been going crazy," he said.

The Giants created room on the big league active roster for Burrell by optioning John Bowker, their Opening Day right fielder, to Fresno. The club opened a spot on the 40-man roster by outrighting reliever Brandon Medders to Fresno. To set up that move, Medders, who had been bothered by right knee inflammation, was activated from the 15-day disabled list. He had been on a Minor League injury rehabilitation assignment.

Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.