- The Washington Times - Monday, June 19, 2006

The Washington Nationals are in no rush to activate right-hander John Patterson from the 15-day disabled list and probably won’t make a roster move involving him until Friday.

“It’s not that we’re going to have a shortage of arms to pitch. We’ll move someone up,” Nationals manager Frank Robinson said. “There’s no rush on announcing him, but if he’s fine, he’s going Friday.”

Patterson, who made his third rehab start Saturday night in Woodbridge with Class A Potomac, is 1-0 with a 3.86 ERA in just four starts this season. He has been on the DL since April 28 with a right forearm strain and has not pitched for the Nationals since April 21.

Barring a setback during the week, Patterson is looking at opening the three-game weekend series Friday against the Baltimore Orioles at Camden Yards. Patterson will throw another bullpen session this week before he is activated.

“I’m really looking forward to getting back to my routine of watching video, scouting and things like that, and getting back on the mound to compete,” he said.

Patterson allowed five runs on eight hits on 90 pitches in 51/3 innings in his rehab start.

Robinson, who did not know how Patterson performed until he met with reporters yesterday, said: “He’s ready to go. Those minor leaguers don’t care who you are. They’re going to hit. They’re going to hack.”

Patterson’s imminent return to the starting rotation will force some juggling of the starters, especially with two off days approaching. As it stands, left-hander Mike O’Connor, who started yesterday’s game against the New York Yankees, will be skipped in the rotation.

“It’s going to be probably the kids, [Shawn] Hill or O’Connor, that will be moved around a little bit,” Robinson said.

Johnson sidelined

First baseman Nick Johnson did not participate in any baseball-related activities yesterday and may be out of the lineup for a few more days.

Johnson, who left Saturday’s game in the third inning with a lower back strain on his left side, did not throw or hit in the batting cage yesterday. Johnson leads the Nationals with a .312 batting average.

“I’ve been getting some treatment,” Johnson said. “It feels a lot better than yesterday, but it’s day-to-day and we’ll see how it feels.”

Johnson said he injured his back swinging on a first-inning ground out to Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter. He played another 1 innings before his back started tightening up and he had to leave the game.

Daryle Ward started for Johnson yesterday at first base and went 0-for-3.

“I’m just going to let [the back] calm down, get a massage, and take some drugs,” Johnson said.

Given Johnson’s injury history, Robinson won’t rush him back into his lineup. Johnson never has played more than 131 games in a season.

“I just believe when an individual tells me he’s ready to go, give him an extra day and kind of be on the safe side and that doesn’t always work because some of the players are eager to go a little quicker than they should go,” Robinson said. “I’ve used it over a long period of time, and it’s a good rule of thumb.”

Options with the DH

Finding a designated hitter for the upcoming nine-game road trip to three AL East cities shouldn’t be a problem for Robinson. However, Johnson’s injury does complicate things.

Robinson has some capable candidates sitting on his bench, particularly Ward and Matthew LeCroy. If Ward has to play first for Johnson, look for LeCroy to be used as the designated hitter, especially against left-handers. Marlon Anderson and Robert Fick can also DH against right-handers.

Robinson can also play either Anderson or Fick at first and DH Ward, who is hitting .288 this season.

“At this point, we still need Nick Johnson to be in the lineup,” Ward said. “I have an opportunity coming up with the DH, so it would have been nice to have us all in there, but [Johnson] needs to rest his body. I will do whatever it takes to help fill the void here.”

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