Mailbag: Bounce-back year for Burrell?

Mailbag: Bounce-back year in store for Burrell?

I think Pat Burrell could surprise most people this season. What are your thoughts?
-- Kyle G., Hatfield, Pa.

Right fielder Shane Victorino agrees with you, and he recently predicted a huge season from Burrell. Manager Charlie Manuel said he expects to hit Burrell fifth behind Ryan Howard, though he's also mulling flipping Chase Utley and Howard in the lineup. Though Burrell posted solid numbers (29 homers and 95 RBIs), he struck out far too often in key situations and batted .222 with runners in scoring position.

It's important to note that Burrell was outstanding (.313) in that department in 2005. An injured right foot that wasn't helped by surgery the previous offseason slowed him down, and the hope is that it won't hamper him as much this season. The ascent of Howard and Utley as the unquestioned leaders will lower the expectations on Burrell, and not being counted on to be the man may work in his favor.

Who do you see as the Opening Day starter for 2007, and how do the other four fall in terms of order?
-- Sam L., New York, N.Y.

This is just a guess, but I predict Freddy Garcia will start the opener on April 2 against the Braves, and be followed by lefty Cole Hamels, if for no other reason to break up hard-throwing righties Garcia and Brett Myers. Myers will likely pitch third and be followed by Jamie Moyer and Adam Eaton.

Where is the Phillies' speed off the bench? Could they carry 11 pitchers to open up a roster spot for Chris Roberson, the only player with speed who is vying for a bench spot?
-- Mike S., Germantown, Md.

Don't forget Michael Bourn, though he's more likely to head to Triple-A Ottawa for some additional seasoning. Manuel has long had a preference for 12 pitchers -- especially in April -- which means he only has room for five bench spots. As of right now, those are expected to be filled by Carlos Ruiz, Abraham Nunez, Jayson Werth and two of the following: Roberson, Chris Coste, Karim Garcia or Greg Dobbs. If the expected deep starting rotation lives up to its billing, Manuel may revisit the issue and go with 11 arms. But you're right, speed isn't going to be a strength of the bench.

I really like taking a flyer on Antonio Alfonseca. There's little risk for what he could possibly add to the bullpen. What move, or non-move, by the Phillies has you most impressed this offseason?
-- Chris F., Delran, N.J.

I agree on Alfonseca, although it's not a done deal yet. He has to pass a phyical first, and that won't happen until after the winter ball season is over. He's a classic low-risk, high-reward scenario, but we must remember that he has not been healthy since 2004. New special assistant Charlie Kerfeld saw Alfonseca in winter ball and reported a velocity of about 92 mph with good movement and a sharp slider. Rightfully so, the Phillies are still looking at ways to improve the 'pen.

Have a question about the Phillies?
Todd ZoleckiE-mail your query to Phillies beat reporter Todd Zolecki for possible inclusion in a future Inbox column. Letters may be edited for brevity, length and/or content.
First Name, Last Initial:


Email Address:


As for the move I'm most impressed with, that's an easy choice. Securing Garcia for prospects Gavin Floyd and Gio Gonzalez was a coup, even if that pair eventually works out for the White Sox. Garcia was arguably the best starting pitcher available via a trade, and only requires a financial commitment for this season. To secure him without touching the Major League roster was quite an accomplishment. The right-hander won 17 games last season and has thrown at least 200 innings in seven of his eight seasons. He'll serve as the ace, and adds tremendous depth to what could be the league's best rotation. As a bonus, he makes a starter -- likely Jon Lieber -- expendable in order to fill a need for a reliable late-inning reliever.

Why did the Phillies decide not to re-sign reliever Rick White? He seemed to lighten up the clubhouse atmosphere, and pitched well after a few early outings.
-- Ryan S., Southampton, Pa.

While White did improve after being claimed by the Phils, he never completely earned Manuel's trust. Because the Phillies have better options, White wasn't pursued. He's still currently a free agent, and might end up in Philadelphia's bullpen, based on his continued availability.

Whatever happened to Alex S. Gonzalez? I lost track of him.
-- Kelly G., Miami

Gonzalez, who retired last May after recording four hits in 36 pinch-hit at-bats, signed a Minor League deal with the Royals last week.

Ken Mandel is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.