Patterson smiling, arm feeling good

Patterson smiling, arm feeling good

VIERA, Fla. -- Nationals right-hander John Patterson woke up Saturday morning feeling excited. No longer was he feeling pain in his right arm. All he was thinking about was pitching in his first game since June 21, which was a rehab start against Class A Winston-Salem.

Here's further proof that Patterson was relaxed. By the time he got to Space Coast Stadium a couple of hours later, Patterson didn't bother to look for a scouting report on the Orioles.

"I was out there stretching and Saint [pitching coach Randy St. Claire] said, 'I haven't seen a lineup today.'" Patterson said. "I told him, 'I haven't either; it doesn't matter.' It really didn't. I knew what my game plan was for today. If I gave up three home runs, that was fine, because I knew how my approach was going to be today."

Patterson went on the mound against the Orioles on Saturday afternoon and pitched two solid innings, allowing one run on two hits in a 4-1 loss. The player known as the "Big Nasty" was able to throw all of his pitches without any problems. Patterson was able to throw first-pitch strikes against most of the hitters he faced.

"I'm throwing pain-free. I'm just working on my mechanics and trying to have fun," Patterson said. "I had a smile on my face all day today. I'm just excited and ready to get to the mound."

The past two seasons, Patterson was not having fun. He had played in a combined 15 games because of nerve problems in his right arm. On July 20, 2006, Patterson had surgery to decompress the median nerve in his forearm and was out for the rest of the season.

After taking time to rehab from the initial surgery, Patterson thought he was healthy enough to pitch last season. In fact, he was the Opening Day starter against the Marlins, but his arm still wasn't right. After a May 5 start against the Cubs in which he pitched two innings, Patterson was placed on the disabled list again. Patterson ended up having a second surgery at Duke University to fix his nerve problems. This time, the surgery worked and Patterson is finally healthy.

Patterson realizes that the Nationals need him and right-hander Shawn Hill to anchor a rotation that is one of the youngest in baseball. But Hill recently suffered a setback in his right forearm and there's no telling when he will back in action.

"We have a lot of young guys with talent in here and they are probably not ready yet," Patterson said. "They need some innings in the Minor Leagues. So for us to win and consistently win in the big leagues, I think we both have to be healthy. That would boost everybody's confidence in the locker room, also. They are looking at the two of us to be healthy and be the frontline starters. They need the confidence to know that we are on the field."

Bill Ladson is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.