It is expected that one of the keys for the Angels in 2014 is going to be the performance of their bullpen. With the questions surrounding the back end of the rotation, the Angels bullpen is expected to be an important factor for the team this season.
Unfortunately for the Angels, there are issues in the bullpen as well. Dane De La Rosa is out until Opening Day at the earliest with a forearm strain, and the Angels still do not have a timetable as to when Sean Burnett will be returning. Fortunately, Burnett appears to be coming closer to returning for the Angels.
On Sunday, Sean Burnett threw off of a mound for the first time since his forearm surgery in August. While the Angels have been careful not to refer to the outing as a bullpen session, despite Burnett throwing 30 fastballs off the bullpen mound, this is certainly a step in the right direction for the Angels lefty. Although Burnett felt good after his session yesterday, and played some light catch today, a true bullpen session is not likely for another week to ten days according to Mike Scioscia.
Last season, despite his 0.93 ERA in 13 appearances, Burnett struggled. His 1.345 WHiP was his highest since 2008 with the Pittsburgh Pirates, and his 6.5 strikeouts per nine innings was the second lowest rate in that same time frame. While Burnett’s ERA may have looked good, it was obvious that he just was not healthy, even when on the mound.
Getting Sean Burnett back, and healthy, will be a major boost for the Angels bullpen. As it stands, there are rumors circulating about the Angels leaving Spring Training with an eight man bullpen, just in case the back of the rotation is unable to pitch deep into games. A healthy Burnett could go a long way towards keeping the bullpen from getting burnt out early in the season.
Sean Burnett may just be one piece of the Angels bullpen, but he is an important piece. With the Angels expected to rely heavily on the bullpen this year, getting Burnett back, and healthy, will be a major help.