Sean Burnett finished the regular season with a (1-2) record, two saves, a 2.38 ERA, 2.79 FIP, 12 walks (1.91 BB/9) and 57 Ks (9.05 K/9) in 70 games and 56.2 IP. When the 30-year-old left-hander struggled late in the season, however, it was revealed that Burnett had been dealing with irritation in his left elbow which was thought to be the cause of his issues on the mound. After Burnett had the elbow examined, Nationals' manager Davey Johnson said the issue was thought to be related to a nerve issue in the elbow, telling reporters in early September, "It's not a muscle issue," Johnson said, "It's more of an inflamed nerve or something," that, "... was bothering him right before the [All-Star] Break and he brought it up after the Break and started getting some treatment on it. But he's been awfully durable." Over his last 16 appearances, Burnett had a 4.76 ERA, giving up 22 hits and seven runs, six earned in 11.1 IP in which he walked three and K'd 12.
Burnett, who turned 30 on September 17th, made his first career postseason appearance in Game 2 of the NLDS against St. Louis, giving up a double, triple, home run and walk before he was lifted in favor of fellow left-hander Tom Gorzelanny. Burnett didn't pitch in Games 3 or 4, and before Game 5 when Davey Johnson talked about his bullpen options in the deciding game of the series without mentioning his veteran left-hander the Nats' skipper explained that, "... [Burnett] did have a little discomfort toward the end of the season, and then he was up and pretty straight in the the game that I brought him in, last game in St. Louis.
Johnson said that he would use Burnett though, but added that St. Louis was, "... a ballclub with veteran hitters that go the other way really well. And I like right-handers more matching up." Burnett came on to retire left-hander Skip Schumaker in the 6th inning of Game 5, getting a groundout to first from the one batter he faced. After the Nationals dropped the series there were almost immediately reports that the lefty would undergo surgery to remove bone spurs from his elbow which had bothered him throughout the second half. According to a report from Washington Post writer Adam Kilgore this morning, the left-hander underwent successful surgery on Thursday:
Sean Burnett underwent arthroscopic surgery Thursday two remove two small bone spurs. It shouldn't even interrupt his throwing program.— Adam Kilgore (@AdamKilgoreWP) October 19, 2012
Burnett was in the second year of a 2-year/$3.95M dollar deal this season, and there is a mutual option for 2013 that would pay the veteran of six MLB seasons $3.5M (or a $0.25M buyout). The Nats will have a five-day window after the World Series to negotiate exclusively with the reliever if Burnett chooses to become a free agent.