Ex-Rays become Giant boosts

BY MARC TOPKIN

Times Staff Writer

PHILADELPHIA – One was the personification of the

Rays’ lengthy past failures, the

other arguably among the biggest mistakes of the present

regime.

But now, together, Aubrey Huff and Pat Burrell are two of the

biggest reasons the Giants are playing for the National League

pennant.

“We wouldn’t be here without them,” Giants GM Brian Sabean said

before Saturday’s opener. “It’s pretty simple.”

Huff, after signing a one-year, $3 million deal, turned out to

be arguably the Giants’ most valuable player, leading the team with

a .290 average, 26 home runs and 86 RBIs and playing solid defense

at first base and left- and rightfield.

And Burrell, after being released by the

Rays in mid May and first signing a

minor-league deal with the Giants, was one of their biggest

surprises, hitting .266 with 18 homers and 51 RBIs in 96 games and

taking over as the starting leftfielder after batting just

.202-2-13 in 24 games as the

Rays’ DH.

For Huff, the chance to be in the postseason for the first time

after 6? seasons with the

Rays, followed by unsuccessful

stints with the Astros (to whom the

Rays traded him in July 2006),

Orioles and Tigers, is cause for celebration. His 1,479 games

played without making the playoffs had been third most among active

players.

“This is a blast,” Huff said. “I’m having a great time. This is

what I’ve been waiting my whole life to do. I used to sit on my

couch in Tampa and watch these playoffs and think to myself, ‘Gosh,

how do these guys have the energy to play these games, I’m so

tired.’ Now I get it – pure adrenaline.”

Burrell had been in the playoffs with the Phillies in 2007-08,

which is part of the reason the

Rays signed him to the two-year, $16

million contract going into the 2009 season, along with the promise

of his powerful right-handed bat.

For a number of reasons – primarily Burrell’s inability to get

comfortable in the DH role – it didn’t work out in Tampa Bay, with

Burrell hitting only .218 with 16 homers and 77 RBIs in 146 games

over two seasons, and not appearing to have much positive impact in

the clubhouse. (He had a warm greeting for a St. Petersburg Times

reporter Saturday, although no time after batting practice for an

interview.)

“The guy’s been more than a pleasant surprise,” Giants manager

Bruce Bochy said. “Not just with his play, but also who he is, how

he’s helped out in that clubhouse. He’s been through this and he’s

really helped those kids in there.”

Saturday, Huff went 1-for-4 and Burrell 2-for-3, including a

crucial RBI double off Roy Halladay in the sixth inning.

PITCHING IN: RHP Roy Oswalt starts Game 2 for the Phillies

tonight hoping to do better than in his division series outing,

when he gave up four runs (three earned) and lasted only five

innings against the Reds.

But that start came after nine days off, and this one comes

after eight, and Oswalt isn’t sure exactly what to expect. “Seemed

like it was forever since we played,” he said. “You have (this

time) in between and you don’t know exactly what you need to

do.”

The Giants changed their rotation from the division series,

moving LHP Jonathan Sanchez up to Game 2 and pushing RHP Matt Cain

back to Game 3. Bochy said it was done to split up RHPs Tim

Lincecum, who started Saturday’s opener, and Cain as much as

anything.

VIEW FROM THE TOP: Acknowledging that usual Phillies leadoff man

SS Jimmy Rollins is still not 100 percent recovered from his

September hamstring strain, manager Charlie Manuel went with CF

Shane Victorino for the third straight game. “He’s done pretty good

there and we’ve been winning,” Manuel said. “And I’m still

wondering if Jimmy can steal bases and things like that, just what

goes into it. And also I like the balance that I think it adds to

our lineup.”

MISCELLANY: Burrell, a longtime Phillie, got a mostly positive

reaction from the Citizens Bank Park crowd. Vice president Joe

Biden was among those in the crowd. First-pitch temperature was

59.