The Washington Times - March 22, 2008, 11:03AM

\ You have to wonder if John Patterson will ever pitch there — as an opponent.\

\ The Nationals made a stunning move by releasing Patterson this week. His value had diminished so much that it is clear the club couldn’t even get a toss-in minor leaguer in a deal for him. Everyone had seen enough this spring to know that he is far away from being the Patterson who was so effective in 2005. If he wants to pitch somewhere now, he will likely have to accept some sort of minor league assignment — or even an Atlantic League job, to prove himself all over again.\


\ The most interesting thing about the Patterson decision was his belief that owner Mark Lerner was involved in the decision. This is the first time one of the Lerners names has come up involving a baseball decision. Whether it is true or not, it is worth wondering if this was just Patterson’s own paranoias, or if the word in the clubhouse is that the Lerners are feeling more empowered to step into baseball matters. There has been no evidence of that to date.\

\ The first National to pitch in a regular season game — opening night March 30 against Atlanta — appears to be Odalis Perez, and he is probably the best choice at this point. Managers line up their pitching rotations weeks in advance to go into the season, and there was no clear cut choice weeks ago to line for up the opening night start, as there was when, say, Livan Hernandez was here. You mess with the days of rest for a pitcher during a playoff run, not to accommodate an opening night start.\

\ Perez has pitched in 222 major league games, five postseason games and an All Star Game. He has by far the most experience to handle such a big stage — opening night on ESPN in the new ballpark — and would be the least affected mentally if it turned out to be a disaster. He is one cool customer.\