Burnett said he expects to play catch Tuesday afternoon after tossing 15-18 pitches on Monday, and manager Davey Johnson did not rule out the possibility that Burnett could pitch in the second game of the series at Citi Field.
"No pain," Burnett said. "I mean, it's September, so it's not going to be 100 percent. But it's better. There's movement. It was just more typical ball flight that I'm used to seeing, and movement. It probably hadn't been like that in two to three weeks."
The lefty leads the Nationals pitching staff in appearances (61) though he has not pitched in a game since Sept. 2. Following a rocky outing that day against the Cardinals, the Nationals discovered Burnett had been suffering from nerve irritation in his throwing elbow.
He threw Saturday for the first time since being held out of games for almost a week.
"Normally coming back from something bothering him, I give him a day of rest to regroup, and then I go," Johnson said. "But I would expect he'd want to be in tomorrow night."
Burnett has been one of the team's most reliable bullpen pieces, owning a 2.49 ERA through 50 2/3 innings while striking out 50. He figures to be an important piece down the stretch run, and the Nationals would rather be without him in early September than in October.
"They had to convince me of that," Burnett said. "That was hard for me. It feels like it's been a month for me. But it got to a point where it wasn't fair for me, it wasn't fair to my teammates to go out there not 100 percent, in a pennant race, and put stuff in jeopardy. It wasn't right to my teammates. But I felt like a week off would freshen me up a little bit and hopefully get back with no pain. And today it was better. It seemed like the action on the ball was back."