Up until about two weeks ago, Sean Burnett was putting up career numbers, despite the fact that he had battled tightness in his throwing elbow for a handful of weeks.
After an appearance on August 10, Burnett’s ERA sat at 1.81, he had a 0.96 WHIP and had become a dominant force in the eighth inning.
Over his next eight games, however, Burnett looked like a different pitcher. He posted a 7.50 ERA over six innings, allowing 16 hits, a walk, a wild pitch and two hit-batters in that span.
Turns out, the elbow tightness that he felt back in July never left, and while he was able to pitch through it for a while, the pain eventually got to Burnett and forced him to shut things down for a little while.
“I was just kind of dealing with it and taking different medications to try and get through it,” Burnett said. “I was still kind of successful and being able to compete out there, so it was hard for me to tell the trainers I couldn’t go out there or my teammates I couldn’t go out there. It just got to the point in the last 10 days or so it wasn’t fair to my teammates that I was going out there because there were probably better options.
“We’ve got a bunch of good arms down there in the bullpen and I wasn’t at 100 percent or near 100 percent at the time. I kind of was putting my team in jeopardy and it wasn’t right to them.”
Burnett says the hardest part about pitching with the inflammation in his elbow wasn’t the physical aspect, but mentally not being sure that his arm would hold up, given that he underwent Tommy John surgery in 2005.
“When it was first bothering me, nothing was really off, besides mentally knowing the pain was coming near the scar that I had to sit out 12-14 months with,” Burnett said. “Getting over that and hoping no one pitch was going to bother it or one day something bad was going to happen. That was my biggest fear. But through the doctors and training staff, they told me everything was pretty good there and as long as I was doing good, I felt like there was no reason for me to not pitch. I tried to go as long as I possibly good before I kind of lost control.”
Recently, however, Burnett said he felt like he was doing too much to try and compensate for his lack of arm speed, perhaps using too much of the lower-half of his body. That threw his mechanics off a bit and caused his control to suffer, as we saw most recently when he allowed two runs on three hits Sunday against the Cardinals.
“I started hitting guys, and the other day, I was just all over the place,” Burnett said.
For now, Burnett will play things by ear. He hopes to start playing catch sometime in the next few days, and also hopes a new anti-inflammatory medicine will help out, as well.
“I feel pretty good,” Burnett said. “I haven’t really done anything so it’s tough to test it out just sitting around and letting it rest. Right now, it feels good, but until I throw a baseball, that’s the true test.
“Hopefully in a couple days I’ll feel good and be able to finish the season strong and hopefully it goes completely away. It’s probably something that needs a little bit of rest. Unfortunately we don’t have that right now, but hopefully these three or four days will recharge the batteries and get me through the next two or three months.”