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Nats sign Burnett, Johnson to Minors deals

WASHINGTON -- The Nationals agreed to Minor League contracts with a pair of veterans on Monday, coming to terms with left-handed reliever Sean Burnett and outfielder Reed Johnson. Both received an invitation to Spring Training.

Burnett and Johnson have played for Washington before, but both players are coming off injuries.

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The Nationals acquired Burnett from the Pirates in a June 2009 trade, and he pitched for Washington through the '12 season, compiling a 2.81 ERA over 245 appearances. Burnett helped the Nats win the National League East title in '12, posting a 2.38 ERA, striking out roughly a batter per inning and holding lefties to a .211 average and a .534 OPS.

After that season, Burnett left as a free agent, signing with the Angels. But he pitched only 13 games for the club in 2013 and three the next year as he battled arm injuries. In June 2014, Burnett underwent the second Tommy John surgery of his career and didn't pitch at all last season.

Burnett turned 33 in September, and his recent history will make him a long shot, but there could be an opening for him, health permitting. With veteran Matt Thornton a free agent, Felipe Rivero, Matt Grace and Sammy Solis are the club's only returning lefty relievers. All three were rookies last year, and Rivero was the only one to establish himself at the Major League level.

Johnson signed with the Nationals just before the start of last season, after he was released by the Marlins. He hit .227/.250/.273 with three RBIs in 17 games. The 38-year-old spent much of the year on the 60-day disabled list, sustaining a damaged tendon in his left foot in early May, then a hairline fracture in his rib during a Minor League rehab assignment. Johnson finally returned late in September and made five appearances as a pinch-hitter.

A right-handed batter, Johnson has spent 13 seasons in the Majors for six teams, hitting .279/.335/.405. He could be in the mix for a backup outfielder job, along with Matt den Dekker and others.

Andrew Simon is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter @AndrewSimonMLB.
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