- The Washington Times - Monday, March 19, 2007

VIERA, Fla. — Though John Patterson did not pitch as deep into the game as he was allotted yesterday, he was pleased with his second outing of the spring.

The Washington Nationals’ projected Opening Day starter allowed three runs on three hits and one walk while striking out four against the Florida Marlins at Space Coast Stadium. Patterson was supposed to pitch four innings but ran his pitch count to 57 by the end of the third, when he allowed all his runs.

Patterson surrendered a run-scoring double to Marlins shortstop Hanley Ramirez and a two-run homer to first baseman Mike Jacobs. With just two more Grapefruit League starts left before Opening Day on April 2 against the Marlins at RFK Stadium. Patterson is confident he will be ready once the season starts.

“It’s just getting your pitches. It doesn’t really matter who you are facing as long as you have command of your pitches and have confidence in your pitches,” Patterson said. “When you talk about facing big league hitters, you’re looking for more of a result. You can make terrible pitches to big league hitters on a windy day or whatever and get outs.”

Patterson said he’s on target to build up his pitch count to 100 pitches by Opening Day.

“He’ll be ready to go,” Nationals manager Manny Acta said. “His next outing he’ll go 85 [pitches].”

Snelling makes case

All spring, Acta has said Ryan Church is the club’s starting left fielder. Chris Snelling is making his case to change that.

Snelling is 8-for-28 (.286) with team highs of three home runs and 10 RBI in 11 games.

Snelling, who was acquired from Seattle in the Jose Vidro trade, has shared time with Church as the starter in left so far this spring and is impressing general manager Jim Bowden.

Bowden sees Snelling as possibly the club’s starting left fielder this season.

“Chris is a good player,” Bowden said. “I think he’s kind of a blue-collar player that America loves to see. He’s got tremendous bat speed. He’s quick to the ball. He’s a good defensive player [with] good jumps [and] good angles. His uniform is always dirty by the first inning. He always throws to the right base. He’s a throwback player.

“We know he’s on the team. The only question is who is going to start in left field. The way he’s swinging the bat, he’s in a good competition right now to be the everyday left fielder.”

Simontacchi to lose turn

Right-hander Jason Simontacchi will miss a turn in the rotation because of a groin injury. Simontacchi, who has a 5.25 ERA in 12 innings this spring, and rookie left-hander Matt Chico lead the competition to take two of the three spots left in the rotation behind Patterson and Shawn Hill.

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