For four months this year, Sean Burnett quietly, effectively built what is perhaps his best season in the major leagues. Tasked with a pivotal eight-inning role once Tyler Clippard moved into the closer’s spot, Burnett was nearly automatic, his heavy sinker befuddling hitters and forcing them to pound it into the ground.
But in the month of August Burnett has struggled. Twenty-one of the 56 batters he’s faced this month have reached base and he’s allowed 16 hits in his last six innings of work.
His ERA in that stretch is 3.86 and opponents are hitting .353 off him. On Sunday, he surrendered a game-tying home run to left-hander Daniel Descalso and was pulled with left-hander Jon Jay coming to the plate.
Burnett received treatment on his left elbow Sunday afternoon, though, and that was the first key for manager Davey Johnson that things were indeed not right for his reliever
“Burnett is down for a little tender elbow,” Johnson said. “He’s had a little bit of irritation there, so I’ll be staying off him.
Burnett dealt briefly with a similar issue when the Nationals returned from the All-Star break but he shot down any speculation about the disabled list at that time and let some anti-inflammatory medication do its job.
With rosters expanded, there’s no need for the Nationals to put Burnett on the disabled list this time around, either, and they reinforced their pitching corps by calling up Zach Duke and Christian Garcia from Triple-A this morning as well.
Johnson said they have not sent Burnett for an MRI on his elbow but he did visit with team medical director Wiemi Douoguih.