- The Washington Times - Saturday, June 23, 2007

Jason Bergmann arguably was the most dominant pitcher in the National League at the time a sore right elbow landed him on the disabled list more than a month ago.

The Washington Nationals right-hander allowed one or fewer earned runs in five of his eight starts.

Bergmann comes off the disabled list Monday and faces the Braves in Atlanta. But can he immediately return to the form he displayed pre-injury?

“We”ll find out,” he said. “I feel pretty good. My fastball hit 93 in my Triple-A start [Wednesday in Columbus]. That to me says my fastball’s back. It’s just a matter of hitting my spots.”

Bergmann’s return, originally scheduled for Tuesday, will be bumped up a day so he remains on a five-day schedule. Mike Bacsik, who would have been in line to pitch Monday, will start a day later.

Though no one knows exactly what to expect from Bergmann in his first start since May 14 (a win over the Braves), club officials are hopeful it doesn’t take long to pick up where he left off.

“I think it will be too much to ask right away,” manager Manny Acta said. “I think it’s going to take him a couple of starts, maybe, to where he was before. That being said, he was leading the major leagues in opposition batting average. He will be able to give us a chance to compete.”

Bergmann (1-3 with a 2.76 ERA) will be the first of Washington’s four injured starters to come off the DL, but his injury was less severe than those suffered by his teammates. His ailment proved to be nothing more than fluid in his elbow, and his condition improved as soon as the fluid was drained about three weeks ago.

“It was extreme relief, from the second they stuck the needle in and extracted it,” he said. “I could feel it right away. From there, it was just getting back to where I was. My throwing felt great.”

Patterson slowly progressing

John Patterson, one of Bergmann’s fellow injured pitchers, said his throwing arm felt strong after a three-inning rehab start Thursday night for Class A Potomac, but he’s concerned about his mechanics being a bit out of whack.

Pitching coach Randy St. Claire wasn’t as concerned about Patterson’s mechanical issues as the right-hander was.

“He needs to get them in order, but whether they’re going to be perfect right from the get-go, he’s asking too much,” St. Claire said. “Your mechanics, just like your pitches, get better the more you pitch. You don’t stay idle for months and then walk out on the field and say: ‘My mechanics are perfect.’ It just doesn’t work like that.”

Patterson, out since May 6 with a sore right elbow and biceps muscle, is scheduled to make another rehab start (his third) on Tuesday, and the club isn’t ready to put a timetable on his return to the rotation.

“No,” Acta said. “Not until he feels he’s ready to go and pitch effectively here.”

Extra bases

The Nationals came to terms with fourth-round draft pick Derek Norris, a high school catcher from Goddard, Kan. The club has now signed 29 of its 53 picks, and is still negotiating with first-rounder Ross Detwiler and “sandwich” picks Josh Smoker and Michael Burgess. …

Three minor leaguers were removed from the 40-man roster and now cannot be called up without first having their contracts purchased. First baseman Larry Broadway was outrighted to Class AAA Columbus. Outfielder Frank Diaz and left-hander Mike Hinckley were outrighted to Class AA Harrisburg.

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