Veterans Reed Johnson and Sean Burnett, whose careers have been derailed by injuries, will get another shot with the Nationals in 2016 after agreeing Monday to minor-league contracts.
Johnson played for the Nationals this season, though he missed five months with a torn tendon in his foot. Burnett last pitched in Washington in 2012 but has made only 16 big-league appearances since after suffering an elbow injury that required the second Tommy John surgery of his career.
Burnett, 33, was a key member of the Nationals’ division-winning bullpen in 2012 and posted a 2.81 ERA in 245 relief appearances over four seasons with the organization. The reliable and durable lefty wound up signing a 2-year, $9.5 million contract with the Angels but immediately dealt with elbow trouble and never regained his form.
Burnett made only 13 appearances for the Angels in 2013, then was shut down again in 2014 after only three appearances. He was diagnosed with a torn ulnar collateral ligament and had Tommy John surgery in May 2014, the same procedure that initially disrupted his career with the Pirates in 2005.
Burnett sat out the entire 2015 season, still recovering from the surgery. A South Florida native, he stopped by Marlins Park in April to visit the Nationals when they were in town and spoke hopefully about his chance of returning to the majors again. He’ll get a shot as a spring training invitee with his former club, which could need another left-hander in its bullpen after losing veteran Matt Thornton to free agency this winter.
Johnson, who turns 39 next month, will hope to resurrect his career after missing the majority of the 2015 season. Signed by the Nationals during the final week of spring training after he was released by the Marlins, the outfielder made the Opening Day roster but landed on the disabled list after injuring his left foot during the club’s dramatic, 13-12 victory in Atlanta on April 28.
Johnson required surgery to repair a torn tendon and wasn’t healthy enough to play again until late September. The Nationals did activate him off the DL and gave him five plate appearances down the stretch; he went 1-for-4 with a sacrifice fly.
At the time, the 13-year veteran was adamant his career wasn’t finished.
“There is no doubt in my mind that I want to play next year,” he said on Sept. 26. “There’s a desire. If there was no desire and I didn’t want to play baseball anymore, then it’d be different. But I have that and I want to come back. I not only want to show that I can play, but I enjoy the game.”