VIERA, Fla. -- The Nationals are looking for impact bench players, and veteran infielder Emmanuel Burriss is hoping to make the team in that role.
Burriss, who can play shortstop and second base, is coming off one of his best seasons in professional baseball, hitting .300 with 80 runs scored, 22 stolen bases and a .377 on-base percentage in 116 games for Triple-A Syracuse. It helped that Burriss was healthy, free of hamstring problems that plagued him in 2013 when he was in the Reds' organization.
"Last year, my main concern was to stay healthy throughout the whole season," said Burriss, who started his big league career with the Giants in 2008. "I put in the extra work that was missing. I was in the training room for some of those times. I wanted to make sure my legs were as strong as they could be, get back to moving quickly around the bases. Being able to hit from both sides of the plate helped the team out."
While with Syracuse, Burriss was someone who helped guide the younger players on the team, according to assistant general manager Doug Harris. Burriss also never complained about not being called up to the big leagues in 2014.
"He did everything you could ask of him," Harris said. "He had a great focus on what he was able to control day to day. He never deviated from that. He is a professional, he understands the ballclub we have in Washington. He took care of what he could control."
Now Burriss, 30, is looking to make the big club as a backup infielder.
"Being able to wear a Nationals uniform -- even in Spring Training -- is a blessing," Burriss said. "I'm from the city. I was pulling for the Nationals to come to D.C. in 2004. To have that opportunity to go out here and be a bench player, be any type of role player for this team, I'm working toward that goal. ... It's amazing. That's all I could say."
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the Time. He also can be found on Twitter @WashingNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.