Burnett's history of spring misfortune continues

PHOENIX -- It's a rite of spring for Angels southpaw Sean Burnett, and an irritating one at that. Every year, the veteran reliever finds a way to injure his back, and it usually has nothing to do with his work on the field. It's often a fleeting injury, but it's still one that knocks Burnett off his early training regimen.

This year is no exception, and Burnett finds himself a week behind his peers. He threw a bullpen session on Sunday and will likely need at least one more before he progresses to game action, but he said Monday that his back is no longer an issue.

"Some guys get dead arm. My back locks up on me," said Burnett. "I'm not sure what it is or what causes it, but we've got it taken care of."

Burnett, who has pitched his entire career in the National League, is working through his first Spring Training with the Angels and hoping to be a major part of the team's bullpen. In order for that to happen, though, he's got to get himself healthy and in prime condition for Opening Day.

The former first-round Draft pick has been remarkably consistent over the last four years, and he's logged a 2.85 ERA while finishing more than one-sixth of the games in which he pitched for the Pirates and Nationals (51 of 283). And in virtually all of those seasons, Burnett has thrived despite his back making things difficult.

"It happens every Spring Training," he said. "Last year, I was turning to put my glove into a locker. This year, I was putting my kid into a shopping cart to get some stuff. The year before, I think I was putting on my baseball pants. It's all crazy accidents, nothing that's ever happened on the field."

The Angels are aware of that history, and they want to make sure that he doesn't overexert himself. Manager Mike Scioscia said that Burnett will likely throw another bullpen session on Tuesday, and if he gets through it without any pain, he could progress to game action later in the week.

"I think he's going to need a little more work. But he's close," said Scioscia. "And you know, he's got time. He's got this week to make sure he's strong and ready to go."

So what can Burnett do to avoid the annual injury? He certainly can't stop pulling on his baseball pants, and he doesn't think it's a matter of conditioning. All he can do, he said, is soldier through it.

"I've just got to maintain it with exercise," he said. "It's only flared up once a year, and hopefully that's the one time. I feel good now. I feel like nothing ever happened. Back to 100 percent."