The long road back from elbow surgery could be a dead end for Angels reliever Sean Burnett, who reinjured the elbow in his third appearance off the disabled list Tuesday night and will return to the DL on Wednesday.
Burnett, who endured numerous setbacks in his recovery from an August procedure to clean out his elbow, summoned Manager Mike Scioscia and athletic trainer Rick Smith to the mound after getting Michael Saunders to pop out to shortstop in the seventh inning of a 6-4 win over the Seattle Mariners.
The left-hander, limited by an elbow impingement to 13 games last season, was pulled from the game. Scioscia said Burnett will return to Southern California on Wednesday to undergo medical tests.
Burnett, who overcame 2004 Tommy John surgery and 2005 shoulder surgery to become one of baseball’s more durable and dependable left-handed relievers, was so distraught he had to cut off a postgame interview.
“There’s a lot of frustration right now, I’m trying to stay positive, I’ll see what the doctor says tomorrow,” Burnett said before burying his face in a towel and fighting off tears as he walked away from reporters. “I can’t ... ”
Burnett, in the second year of a two-year, $8-million contract, had an 0.93 earned run average in 2013, but his season was cut short on May 27, and he underwent surgery in August.
After a winter of recovery, Burnett had a spring-training setback in March. He spent much of April and May rehabilitating the elbow in Arizona before embarking on a lengthy minor-league stint with double-A Arkansas earlier this month.
The Angels were buoyed by his return this past weekend -- Burnett pitched against the Kansas City Royals on Friday and Saturday -- but now there is a concern he may not pitch past June for the second straight year.
“It’s tough, man,” said Jered Weaver, who allowed three runs and seven hits in six innings to earn the win Tuesday night. “I’ve been talking to him throughout this whole process, and we’re praying it’s nothing serious.
“He’s worked his [tail] off to get back to this point. He’s a great guy, he wants to go out there and help this team win. I know he’s really frustrated. It’s a tough time for him now. He was feeling good, and it happened on one pitch. It’s frustrating for him and for us too. We want him out there.”
Catcher Chris Iannetta said he knew the injury might be serious when he saw Burnett call for the trainer.
“Immediately, my heart went out for him,” Iannetta said. “You knew something was wrong. With all he’s been through the last few years, he worked his butt off to get back. He’s just had a string of bad luck. He was pitching real well.”
With Burnett headed for the DL, Scioscia said there is a chance that the Angels will recall right-hander Matt Shoemaker from triple-A Salt Lake to start Thursday night’s game against the Mariners in place of scheduled starter Wade LeBlanc.