Patterson pitched just three innings against the Blue Jays on June 29, and in his next start, went only five innings against the Marlins on the Fourth of July. And a day before the All-Star break, Patterson pitched just one inning against the Padres, because of the forearm strain.
Patterson was scheduled to pitch against the Marlins on Tuesday, but general manager Jim Bowden and manager Frank Robinson thought it was best to place Patterson on the DL and find out why the forearm is not progressing.
"I sat down and talked to Frank earlier," Patterson said. "It just wasn't getting better, so we have to take some time and get it right. I don't think we pushed [coming back too quickly]. In fact, I wanted to go faster. It just didn't work out."
To best diagnose the forearm strain, the Nationals have scheduled Patterson for a nerve conduction study on Monday and an MRI the following day. With results in hand, Patterson will then be examined by Dr. Ben Shaffer, the team orthopedist, on Wednesday.
"He has a very unique injury," Bowden said. "We are going to get to the bottom of it and understand it better and look at what options we have. We have done everything from a rehabilitation perspective, and now, we just need to do more tests to see if surgery would solve it."
Said Patterson: "We are going to have the test done, see what the images show and go from there. It's very possible this is something I could rehab and get it stronger. It was weak, and it couldn't maintain the stress."
It was supposed to be Patterson's breakout season after he went 9-7 with a 3.13 ERA in 2005. But it's turned out to be one of his most frustrating seasons. He still considers the 2000 season his worst, because he needed elbow reconstruction surgery that year.
"The Tommy John thing was pretty bad," Patterson said. "That's career ending. The forearm strain is not career ending. Is it disappointing? Yeah. Does it mess up my season? Yeah. Did I have better hopes for this season? Absolutely. So did everybody. Everybody expected it to be a big bang, and it just didn't happen this year, but it's going to happen next year."
With Patterson out of the action, the Nationals have tentatively penciled in Mike O'Connor to make the start against the Marlins on Tuesday. O'Connor was demoted to Triple-A New Orleans on June 6, and he wasn't supposed to be back with the team any time soon, because Patterson and Tony Armas Jr. were expected to fill out the rotation. O'Connor has started 14 games for the Nationals and went 3-6 with a 4.32 ERA.
On Saturday, the Nationals are expected to purchase the contract of reliever Kevin Gryboski from New Orleans. Gryboski, who has Major League experience, was 3-5 with one save and a 3.86 ERA in 39 appearances for New Orleans this season.
Down in the lineup: With the acquisition of outfielder Austin Kearns and shortstop Felipe Lopez, Robinson moved Jose Guillen to the seventh spot in the order. Guillen hinted that he did not agree with the decision. The last time Guillen batted down in the order, he said he wasn't getting good pitches to hit. Entering Friday's action, Guillen is hitting .211 with nine home runs and 34 RBIs.
"I talked to Frank today," Guillen said. "We discussed it. Am I happy? Probably not. He makes the lineup, and I have to go and play. What can I do? I have to start producing."
Guillen also realizes that the Kearns-Lopez trade means that he may be traded before the July 31 deadline. Kearns currently is playing center field for the Nationals, but he's expected to be back in right by Aug. 1.
"There have been a lot of trade rumors the last few days," Guillen said. "Kearns has been playing right field most of his career. That's something I'm not really worried about. If it happens, fine. If it doesn't happen, I will be happy, too."
Jackson sidelined: Infielder Damian Jackson was unavailable for Friday's game against Pittsburgh because of esophageal spasms, which are irregular contractions of the muscles in the esophagus that impair the movement of food to the stomach, according to the Mayo Clinic. Jackson is listed as day-to-day.
Send in your questions: The Nationals mailbag returns on Monday. Send in your questions now.
Coming up: The Nationals play the second game of a three-game set against the Pirates on Saturday at PNC Park at 7:05 p.m. ET. Right-hander Pedro Astacio (1-1, 5.79) will get the start for Washington, while right-hander Ian Snell (8-6, 4.74) gets the nod for Pittsburgh.