Burnett ‘excited, anxious to get back out there’ …

Sean Burnett, Mike SciosciaAfter an injury-riddled season, a surgical procedure, a nine-month rehab and a frustrating setback, lefty reliever Sean Burnett finally returned to the Majors on Friday, primed to appear out of the Angels’ bullpen for the first time in nearly a year.

“It’s a special day for me,” Burnett said, “and a day I’ve been waiting for a long time. I’m excited, anxious to get back out there.”

Burnett – signed to a two-year, $8 million contract in December 2012 – appeared in only 13 games last season before finally succumbing to elbow surgery in August 2013, a procedure that saw Dr. James Andrews re-open the scar from Burnett’s Tommy John surgery in 2004 and clean up residual scar tissue.

Burnett rehabbed all winter, started throwing bullpen sessions in Spring Training, had a bad reaction to a synvisc shot – an injectable lubricant used to treat arthritis – in late March, took a couple steps back, then slowly worked his way into a rehab assignment with Double-A Arkansas, giving up three runs in his first appearance and then throwing five straight scoreless outings.

The 31-year-old’s fastball sat mostly between 88 and 90 mph, which is about where he needs it to be, and said “the biggest thing for me was the movement was there, the life was on the ball, and I was able to locate down in the zone and repeat it.”

To activate Burnett off the disabled list, the Angels optioned first baseman/outfielder Efren Navarro to Triple-A Salt Lake, going back to the standard 13 position players and 12 relievers. Angels manager Mike Scioscia called Burnett “one of those guys that you don’t realize what he brings until he’s not here.”

With Burnett – 2.76 ERA, 1.23 WHIP with the Nats from 2010-12 – the Angels finally have a proven lefty reliever in a division with several menacing left-handed bats, one Scioscia can pair with Joe Smith and Ernesto Frieri in the back end of the bullpen.

Scioscia would like to get Burnett a low-leverage inning to get him re-acclimated, but said “if that game situation finds him tonight, he’s going to be out there.”

“I’m there physically,” Burnett said. “It’s just now the anxiousness and the nerves of getting back out there and doing it again for the first time in a big league mound. The stuff’s there, and the action on the ball is where it needs to be. It’s just controlling my emotions those first couple times out and not letting the excitement get to be.”

Some additional notes prior to the opener of a three-game series against the Royals …

  • Josh Hamilton (2-for-4 in his rehab debut on Thursday) was a late scratch from the Triple-A Salt Lake lineup on Friday. Scioscia said he got jammed badly in the ninth inning, causing soreness in his surgically repaired left thumb, and didn’t feel good during batting practice. He’s expected to return to the lineup on Saturday. As for whether Hamilton can be back by Monday in Seattle, as the left fielder had hoped, Scioscia said, “We’ll take it one day at a time.” No need to rush him for that, though.
  • Mike Trout (tight left hamstring) is back in the lineup after missing Wednesday’s game and then benefitting from the Angels’ scheduled off day on Thursday. He’s feeling a lot better.
  • Third baseman Ian Stewart (left hand contusion) had a “great” workout earlier today and could go on a rehab assignment on Saturday, Scioscia said.

Royals (23-23)

Nori Aoki, RF
Alcides Escobar, SS
Eric Hosmer, 1B
Billy Butler, DH
Alex Gordon, LF
Danny Valencia, 3B
Lorenzo Cain, CF
Pedro Ciraco, 2B
Brett Hayes, C

SP: LH Danny Duffy (2-3, 1.42 ERA)

Angels (26-20)

Howie Kendrick, 2B
Mike Trout, CF
Albert Pujols, 1B
David Freese, 3B
C.J. Cron, DH
Chris Iannetta, C
Erick Aybar, SS
Grant Green, LF
Collin Cowgill, RF

SP: LH C.J. Wilson (5-3, 3.16 ERA)

Alden

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