- The Washington Times - Friday, August 3, 2007

John Patterson says his right arm feels as good as it has in a long time. He says he believes he will return to pitch for the Washington Nationals this season.

But that’s all the injured right-hander had to say during his first public comments since going to Toronto for an unorthodox treatment program that lasted about three weeks.

I feel good. I feel great, Patterson said before the Nationals’ game against the Cincinnati Reds. It’s the best I’ve felt in two years, and the treatment was a success. I have a throwing program that I’m following. That’s the only comment I have.

Asked whether he will be back this season, the 29-year-old replied, Yeah, but that’s all I have to say, and then walked away from a group of reporters assembled at his locker.

Since departing for Canada last month to undergo a complex program that features some treatments not yet approved in the United States, Patterson mostly has been away from the club. On the disabled list since May 6 with a compressed radial nerve in his throwing arm, Washington’s Opening Day starter hoped that unconventional program would get him back on the field this season and eliminate the need for surgery, just as it did for Oakland Athletics closer Huston Street.

Now that he has returned to the country, Patterson will attempt to get his arm back into shape to pitch in a major league game. He played catch yesterday and will head to the Nationals’ spring training complex in Viera, Fla., later this week to resume his throwing program.

We expect him to pitch here in September, general manager Jim Bowden said.

Bowden wouldn’t get into details about Patterson’s procedures in Canada, either, but he sympathized with the pitcher, who has endured two injury-plagued years after a breakthrough 2005 season.

When you’re a player and you’re hurt, it’s not your fault, Bowden said. And you tend to be criticized by media and by fans. You can’t help it when you’re physically unable to perform. And certainly he’d like to do his talking by going on the mound and being the John Patterson the year he won nine.

Johnson still struggling

Bowden and manager Manny Acta watched Nick Johnson during an early afternoon batting, fielding and baserunning session and emerged with a familiar diagnosis: The injured Nationals first baseman is not ready to begin playing in game-like conditions.

He looks the same way he’s been looking, Acta said. He’s just moving steady. He’s running. He’s not feeling any pain. He’s taking ground balls, and he swung the bat really good today in batting practice. But there’s still no timetable for Nick.

Johnson, still recovering from a broken right leg suffered last September, continues to have trouble making sharp cuts and quick stops. Until he can do those things without experiencing pain, he won’t begin a minor league rehab assignment.

That could be troublesome because the minor league season ends in about a month, leaving Johnson with little time to make significant strides. There is a chance he could play in game-like situations in September at the Nationals’ instructional league in Viera, perhaps allowing him to return to the majors during the season’s final weeks.

But as has been the case all season, the club isn’t making any predictions about an eventual return date for Johnson.

I can’t answer that yet, Bowden said. I think he’s making progress, and I know he’s working hard.

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