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His contract is running out, but Burrell is hoping to stay

The frustrations, disappointments and near misses rushed through Pat Burrell's mind before Brett Myers recorded the final out at Citizens Bank Park on Sept. 30 to clinch the Phillies' first National League East championship since 1993.

CLEARWATER, Fla. - The frustrations, disappointments and near misses rushed through Pat Burrell's mind before Brett Myers recorded the final out at Citizens Bank Park on Sept. 30 to clinch the Phillies' first National League East championship since 1993.

Burrell watched the final pitches from the top step of the Phillies' dugout.

It took him about half a second to leave those steps and barrel into Myers near the mound to begin the celebration.

"I don't really remember running out," Burrell said yesterday at Bright House Networks Field. "The whole time I had been here just flashed before me."

Burrell, 31, who said the title-clinching game was the best moment of his "baseball life," is beginning his ninth season in a Phillies uniform and his 11th in the organization, which made him the first overall pick in the June 1998 draft. But for the first time since he played baseball at the University of Miami, Burrell is unsure where he will be next year.

The leftfielder is in the final year of a six-year, $50 million contract and seems unlikely to return.

"Who knows?" Burrell said. "If this ends up being my last year here, let's enjoy it."

Burrell's career has been a series of ups and downs. He looked like a perennial MVP and all-star candidate in 2002, when he hit .282 with 37 home runs and 116 RBIs in just his second full season in the majors. But he suffered the season from hell in 2003, when he hit .209 with 21 home runs and 64 RBIs.

Foot and wrist injuries have slowed him.

He has been benched.

The front office has tried to trade him, despite a complete no-trade clause.

But he also became just the third player in Phillies history to hit 20 or more homers in seven straight seasons, joining Mike Schmidt and Bobby Abreu. His 218 career homers are fifth in franchise history. And he has had 95 or more RBIs in each of the last three seasons.

He would have had more RBIs last season, but became an automatic late-inning defensive replacement.

"I never thought there'd be a better situation," Burrell said of Philadelphia. "There were times I thought I might not be here. You just never know. I think through it all, my mind-set has always been that the Phillies have treated me great. Have there been some rough times? Absolutely. But I feel fortunate to be able to stay with the organization this long. I'd love to come back."

It seems strange to think that considering how Burrell has struggled at times. Burrell still has not made an all-star team. He is one of four position players, joining J.D. Drew, Adrian Beltre and Eric Chavez, who have contracts of $50 million or more and never made an all-star team. He has received MVP votes just twice: in 2002, when he finished 14th, and 2005, when he finished seventh.

"Any time you deal with adversity and go through personally some of the things I have in this game, you have two choices," Burrell said. "You can let it beat you up, or you can build from it and go forward. Because of that you become stronger. I believe I'm not only a better player, but a better person - definitely more understanding.

"Sometimes you feel like you're all alone out there, but everybody that played long enough has been through times when things aren't going right."

The boos?

"If you're worried about that, you're not going to last very long," he said. "Is it realistic to get cheered every at-bat? No. In a perfect world, yeah. But who lives there? I don't."

Burrell said he was hoping to stay healthy and contribute consistently this season. In a lineup with the lefthanded-hitting Chase Utley and Ryan Howard, the Phillies need the righthanded-hitting Burrell to be productive in the middle of the lineup.

He also needs to produce - for himself.

But Burrell seems to have a different perspective on things, and seems to be enjoying himself despite the uncertainty that follows this season. A close friend and teammate made "Man or Machine?" T-shirts for everybody in the clubhouse that depict a shirtless Burrell.

On the back, they read, "Winning Starts Now."

They're popular in the clubhouse.

Burrell was asked if he would like to sneak into the clubhouse late at night and burn them all.

"Yeah, I would," he said. "I would. But there's a lot of people that want them. J-Mike [former Phillies teammate Jason Michaels] called me and said, 'Get me that T-shirt.' My wife has one. She asked me why I don't look like that anymore. You guys have to remember, that was on a billboard. That picture has been around."

Burrell has been around Philadelphia since 2000.

He hopes that 2008 isn't the end.

Phillies Tickets on Sale Thursday

Phillies tickets for individual games go on sale Thursday. Tickets for the season opener against the Nationals on March 31 and the series against the world champion Boston Red Sox from June 16 to 18 are available only through a season-ticket plan, the MVP Six Pack, and an online ticket opportunity.

Tickets can be purchased:

Online at phillies.com, starting at 7:30 a.m.

At the phone center at 215-463-1000 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

In person at the Citizens Bank Park west ticket windows, next to the Majestic Clubhouse Store, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. (Thursday only).

After Thursday, fans can buy tickets at the windows at the first-base gate from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Fridays, and from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekends starting March 1.

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