NEW YORK -- Sean Burnett threw off a bullpen mound this afternoon and reported no pain in his elbow, though manager Davey Johnson doesn't plan to use the left-hander before Wednesday.
Burnett, who hasn't appeared in any of the Nationals last seven games due to lingering elbow irritation, threw 15 pitches in the bullpen prior to the Nationals' series opener against the Mets. He said the elbow isn't 100 percent healthy -- "I mean, it's September, so it's not going to be 100 percent," he said -- but feels considerably better than it did after his last appearance.
"It was just more typical ball flight that I'm used to seeing and movement," he said. "It probably hadn't been like that in 2-3 weeks."
Though Burnett was hopeful he'd be cleared to return to game action Tuesday, Johnson said he's likely to wait one more day, wanting to make sure his setup man makes it through a light tossing session first.
"I don't know how much he put into the 'pen," the manager said. "Was it game-like, or what? Normally coming back from something bothering him, I give him a day of rest to regroup, and then I go. But I would expect he'd want to be in tomorrow night. I would expect that of Sean: My riverboat gambler."
Burnett dealt with this issue for a while in midsummer but bounced back and posted a 1.38 ERA while holding opponents to a .149 batting average in 15 appearances from July 13-August 10.
But Burnett hasn't enjoyed a clean outing since, allowing 19 batters to reach safely over his last six innings and blowing late leads to the Cardinals on consecutive days last weekend.
Reluctant at first to be shut down, he finally relented once he realized it might allow him to be available for the stretch run.
"They had to convince me of that," Burnett said. "That was hard for me. It feels like it's been a month for me. But it got to a point where it wasn't fair for me, it wasn't fair to my teammates, to go out there not 100 percent in a pennant race and put stuff in jeopardy. It wasn't right to my teammates. But I felt like a week off would freshen me up a little bit and hopefully get back with no pain. And today it was better. It seemed like the action on the ball was back."
The Nationals haven't had Burnett undergo an MRI, though doctors performed manual tests on the elbow and found no evidence of structural damage.
"No MRI. I didn't want to look and see what that was going to show," he said. "I've already had surgeries on it. It's not going to look pretty. ... I'm not scared something's wrong. Obviously going through the ligament tests, I passed all those. The doctor said the ligament was fine, so I don't see anything else in there."