- The Washington Times - Monday, March 19, 2007

John Patterson will become the second player in Washington Nationals history to make an Opening Day start when he takes the mound April 2 against the Florida Marlins at RFK Stadium.

The tall right-hander is coming off a season in which he made just eight starts because of a right forearm injury that required surgery. Patterson, who lives in Orange, Texas, during the offseason, took some time to speak with Ken Wright about the upcoming season.

Q: Being named the Opening Day starter, does that put more pressure on you this year to perform at a high level?

A: No, not at all. You’re pretty much forced to perform anytime you’re in the major leagues. It’s not all of a sudden, OK, now you’re the ace of the staff or the Opening Day starter, now you’ve got to perform. It’s not like that.

Q: How do you like your role now?

A: I love it. I really kind of enjoy having it on my shoulders. It’s something that I’ve actually been looking forward to at some point in my career being able to do it. It’s one of those things that will drive you and make you work. Every start counts. If we’re sliding, it’ll be my job to stop it.

Q: Can you talk about last season and your arm injury. How frustrating and difficult was last year for you?

A: It was frustrating. It was something, obviously, that I had no idea was going to happen. It was really kind of a freaky thing ? all of a sudden it was there. There really wasn’t much of a warning. A lot of times you have an injury and it just gradually gets worse. This just showed up. And so, it was hard to think through the whole thing. It was disappointing. It was hard to watch us play last year and not be able to go out and contribute and do anything to help stop it.

Q: Getting back to the Opening Day start, I would imagine back in high school you were probably the ace of the staff. So, is this Opening Day start anything new for you?

A: Yeah, I been through it in the minor leagues, I’ve been through it in high school. By the time I got to high school and then got drafted where I got drafted, it’s something that’s been expected of me for a long time. It’s something that I’ve obviously thought about and tried to prepare for. I’ve learned a little bit more each year to get to this situation. I believe I can do it. I think they believe I can do it, and it’s something that I want to do.

Q: What do you think of Opening Day in Washington? It seems like it’s different than most Opening Days because you might have the President throw out the first pitch.

A: Opening Day anywhere is really, really exciting. But, to have it in D.C., I think has been a really great experience for me and a lot of guys on the team. I like the idea of being able to go pitch a game and know that the President is there watching. You don’t get that other places. That’s something that I really enjoy.

Q: Did you do any bow hunting this offseason?

A: I did do some bow hunting this winter. I got about four or five deer with my bow and then four or five with my rifle. So, it was a good year.

Q: Did you do all your hunting in Texas?

A: I did it all in Texas. I didn’t travel at all, as far as hunting, I did it all in Texas with my dad and my brother.

Q: How was your offseason?

A: It was a great offseason. I recovered from the surgery and the operation and was able to have a fairly normal offseason, not to continue with any of my rehab or anything like that. I was able just to go hunt, relax and mentally and physically try to prepare myself for the season.

Q: What is it like going out with someone like the former Miss District of Columbia [Shannon Schambeau]?

A: You know, it’s actually been really easy, to be honest with you. She understands competition. She understands sacrifice. She understands drive. I think a lot of times you can get into a relationship with a girl that doesn’t understand any of that, but she had it. Like when I have to go work out, or I have an obligation, she understands that because she’s been there. She goes through it herself. I think it’s really brought us close together, and we have a very good understanding of each other.

Q: Obviously, you’ve gotten behind the scenes of beauty pageants. Then, you see some scandals that have marred some of these pageants. Does that kind of stuff really go on at these beauty pageants?

A: No. I can’t speak for the Miss U.S.A. circuit, but the Miss America circuit is really quality, really good girls. It’s been unfortunate, it’s kind of given pageants a black eye. A lot of these girls are really well educated, have their Masters, working on their doctorates, things like that. For a couple bad apples to kind give people a bad perception of pageants these days, is just wrong in my opinion.

Q: Is your girlfriend retired from competition, or is she going to continue?

A: Nope, she’s done. Miss America is what she wanted to do. She did really well. She was top five and that was a lot of fun. I was actually more nervous watching her do all that than maybe a day I’m pitching. It was really, really exciting and a lot of fun.

Q: Who’s been the toughest batter you’ve ever faced?

A: There’s guys that give me fits. You wouldn’t think like Oh, yeah, he’s not a great hitter or whatever. There’s some guys like that. But, there’s obviously the greats. There’s the [Albert] Pujols, there’s the [Barry] Bonds, the Miguel Cabreras. Those guys ? I really enjoy competing with them.

It gives you a sense of reward when you get them out or you strike them out. If you hold them to a single, things like that. If you go out with a game plan and are successful with it, those are the guys that gives me the most reward.

Q: Who has hit the longest home run off you?

A: That’s a tough question there. Hmmm. Bonds hit a pretty good one in 2005. On actually, a good pitch, too. That one was impressive. It shows you why he is Barry Bonds. That ball was hit pretty well. It was at RFK in that upper deck, I don’t know, six, seven rows up in the upper deck. It was on a line, too. It was loud. He hit one off Livo [Livan Hernandez] the night before and then he hit one off me the next night and they were almost in the exact same spot. He hit them well.

Q: What do you think of this team this year? A lot of people are saying this club is going to lose 100 games this season. Do you see that?

A: I don’t see that, either. I really don’t. It’s never crossed my mind that we would lose 100 games this year. I don’t believe it will happen. I don’t believe that anybody in here believes that that’s going to happen. On paper, I can see why people say what they’re saying. You can’t argue with that. But, at the same time, we’re thinking very positively.

I think we’re going to go out and compete hard. I think we’re going to work hard. I just want to be hanging around out there at the end, kind of like we were in ‘05, with an opportunity to make something happen. For me right now, that’s what I’m looking for. That’s what I’m hoping for.

Q: Did you buy a house in the Washington area?

A: Nope. No. I’ve got an apartment over on Dupont Circle in that area.

Q: If you get a long-term contract extension, will you buy?

A: Probably, yeah. What I would do a house, a condo, or something like that, I don’t know. A long-term deal? Yeah, I definitely would consider it. I enjoy the city. I have a lot of good friends there. Between the people that I’ve met and the people that Shannon knows, we’ve got a great group of friends and really enjoy the city. There’s no other city in the world like it. It’s amazing. I thoroughly enjoy the city. This is where I want to play my career. No doubt about it, but at the same time, I want to win.

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