Johnson looking to alter Sean Burnett's role in bullpen

As he had said before, Nationals manager Davey Johnson has complete confidence in left-hander Sean Burnett, despite his recent struggles.

Thursday, Burnett allowed a game-tying two-run shot to the Cubs' Carlos Pena after inheriting a man on first with the Nationals leading 8-6 in the seventh inning.

Burnett has now allowed four earned runs and seven hits in his last four appearances, and was pretty hard on himself last night, saying he has been struggling with all of his pitches since the beginning of the season.

Johnson said Burnett has the tools to be vitally important to the health of this bullpen.

"He is going to be fine," Johnson said. "I really like Sean a whole lot. He is an outstanding pitcher and he had a great year last year. He is going to be a big help in the second half."

Johnson has preached his pitching philosophy since he took over. He wants everyone in the bullpen to have defined roles. So, will that mean that Burnett's role will change?

"(Burnett) has been kind of bounced around in the pen," Johnson said. "He was closing a little bit, he was setting up and he even came in early in the ball game."

Johnson said he has a new plan for when he wants to use Burnett in games and will go over it with him before Friday's game with the Colorado Rockies. It may mean Burnett will be more than just the classic lefty specialist.

"I am going to have a talk with him," Johnson said. "I want to use him in multiple roles. But that is a conversation I need to have with him."

Johnson is particularly concerned with the overall health of his relievers as the final series of the first half against Colorado before the All-Star break, especially with Doug Slaten rehabbing and Cole Kimball now out for the year with a torn rotator cuff.

"All the series are important," Johnson said. "I look at every game as a big game. I don't want to wear out my bullpen. My bullpen has really done a great job. They have been outstanding, but have leaned on them heavily. I am trying to protect some guys out there. We are going to get in a good situation in a very short time. But the home stand and the games we have been playing have been tough on my bullpen."

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