Sean Burnett's recent struggles might be injury related.
Davey Johnson said today that his left-handed reliever has been dealing with some irritation in his throwing elbow, the same issue that he went through earlier this season.
The plan for now is to rest Burnett for a couple days and hope that the elbow improves. Johnson said Burnett will not undergo an MRI.
"He's had a little bit of irritation in there," Johnson told reporters. "So we're staying off of him."
Burnett, who had Tommy John surgery on the same left elbow back in 2005, has a 7.50 ERA over his last eight outings after dominating for much of the season. It's unclear how long he's been dealing with the inflammation. Johnson said Burnett hasn't mentioned anything about it to him.
"After the game, he got treatment," Johnson said. "That's not usually what he does."
The Nationals won't need to consider a DL stint for Burnett because they've been able to add arms to their bullpen once rosters expanded. They got two more relief arms today when left-hander Zach Duke and right-hander Christian Garcia were called up from Triple-A Syracuse.
Duke's call-up was a bit of a surprise, seeing as how the veteran left-hander is a starter and he now joins a major league team which isn't in need of additional starting pitching.
But Johnson said Duke earned the promotion and could come in handy down the stretch.
"He had a great year. I could always use another left-hander," Johnson said. "And I think it's good, some guys sign with us and they play good, they get rewarded for it.
"He might get a big out for us against Atlanta or somebody."
Johnson then took a playful jab at Tampa Bay Rays manager Joe Maddon, who commented earlier this season that players might be scared off from signing with the Nationals after Johnson alerted umpires to the fact former Nats reliever Joel Peralta had pine tar on his glove.
"This goes back to trying to repudiate my buddy in Tampa about nobody wanting to sign here," Johnson said. "I could've called him something else, but I won't do that. I'm trying to clean my act up, here."
Johnson said Garcia will give him another right-handed option in the 'pen and could fill a Ryan Mattheus-type role on days when he needs to rest some of his other righties.