Sean Burnett has been a mainstay in the Nationals’ bullpen since arriving here from Pittsburgh in a June, 2009 trade. But after three solid seasons here his elbow is acting up at the worst possible time.
Burnett is dealing with what’s believes to be an irritated nerve in his left elbow. It’s an issue that bothered him shortly before the All-Star break, he sought treatment soon after, but the last few weeks pitching through the pain became too much and his performance suffered.
The hope is rest will do the trick. Washington manager Davey Johnson doesn’t want to hear the word “MRI” any time soon. Burnett is expected to play catch on Saturday and if that goes well he could be back on the mound early next week during a series in New York against the Mets. He is currently taking strong anti-inflammatory medicine. If there is still nerve pain on Saturday? Then the team will re-evaluate. There is some hope here that because it is not a muscle or ligament issue the nerve will calm down and Burnett will return to pitch.
Burnett’s absence doesn’t really affect Johnson’s bullpen management. The left-hander’s sinker makes him as effective against right-handed batters anyway so his role is different than normal lefties. And with Tom Gorzelanny, Michael Gonzalez and now Zach Duke – a Sept. 1 recall from the minors when the rosters expanded – all give Johnson options if he sees a run of left-handed batters late in a game.
Burnett dealt pretty well with his elbow pain all summer. He has a 2.49 ERA even after five runs allowed in his last seven outings. He also has two saves and a 1.18 WHIP.
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