Veteran left-handed reliever Sean Burnett will opt out of his minor league contract with the Dodgers and sign a new minor league pact with the Braves, reports Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet (Twitter link).
Burnett, 33, is seeking a return to a big league mound for the first time since the 2014 campaign. Once an excellent setup option for the Nationals, Burnett signed a two-year, $8MM pact with the Angels as a free agent prior to the 2013 season. A left elbow impingement in 2013, however, led to season-ending elbow surgery, and a torn ulnar collateral ligament in 2014 required Tommy John surgery (the second such operation of Burnett’s career).
After a year off to recovery from that Tommy John, though, Burnett is back on a mound and now with his third organization in the past six weeks. The veteran southpaw, a client of agent Jim Munsey, was in camp with the Nationals on a minor league pact but didn’t make the club in Spring Training and subsequently latched on with the Dodgers, for whom he tossed 7 2/3 innings at the Triple-A level over the past month. In that time, Burnett allowed three runs (two earned) on eight hits and six walks (one intentional) with five strikeouts. That lack of control isn’t particularly encouraging, though some rust for a pitcher who had as long of a layoff as Burnett did is to be expected.
Burnett will report to Triple-A Gwinnett tomorrow, according to Nicholson-Smith, where he’ll look to continue to iron out some of the kinks. The Braves figure to present a clearer path to the Majors for Burnett, as Atlanta’s collective 5.14 bullpen ERA is markedly worse than the collective 3.84 mark turned in by the Dodgers. The two lefties in Atlanta’s ’pen at the moment are veteran Eric O’Flaherty and 26-year-old rookie Hunter Cervenka, either of whom could conceivably be unseated by Burnett if he can rediscover his form. From 2009-13, Burnett posted a 2.77 ERA with 7.5 K/9 against 3.1 BB/9 in 243 2/3 innings between the Pirates, Nats and Angels.