- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 4, 2007

VIERA, Fla. — Because he had not pitched against another major league team in eight months, John Patterson admittedly needed some time yesterday to get comfortable on the mound.

Once he did, the Washington Nationals right-hander felt more like his old self, and his performance against the Baltimore Orioles reflected that.

After giving up three straight two-out singles (and one run) in the top of the first, Patterson rebounded to retire the side in order in his second and final inning of the Nationals’ 7-2 exhibition loss at Space Coast Stadium.

“Once you get the first one out of your way, you can start to get comfortable, start to really focus on pitching instead of all the stuff that goes into your first start,” he said. “The nerves and being back on the mound after a long break … get all that out of your way and now you can start pitching.”

Patterson, the only starter in Washington’s camp guaranteed to win a spot in the team’s rotation, was generally pleased with his 34-pitch spring debut. None of the three first-inning singles was hit particularly hard, and Patterson generally had command of the three pitches he used (fastball, curveball and changeup). He hasn’t started throwing his slider in a game yet.

“It’s too much to ask him to have his second and third pitch with complete command already,” manager Manny Acta said. “He wasn’t very sharp with his breaking balls. But to see him go out there and throw the ball nice and free as he did, it was good.”

Hanrahan struggles

Joel Hanrahan, who relieved Patterson in the third inning, wasn’t nearly as encouraged his performance. The right-hander, one of 12 starters competing for four open rotation spots, lasted just 1/3 of an inning, allowed five runs on three hits and three walks and now has an ERA of 135.00.

Hanrahan, a former Los Angeles Dodgers farmhand, attributed poor mechanics to his rough outing and admitted he was trying to make an impression in one of the few chances he will get. The first round of roster cuts is Thursday.

“Obviously, we’re only going to get so many chances,” he said. “Hopefully that doesn’t hurt my chances. It’s the first game out there. I expect next time to improve.”

Acta said he wouldn’t rush to judge Hanrahan after one game.

“It’s just the first outing, and let’s leave it at that,” the manager said. “If this kid goes out there for two scoreless innings next time, what am I going to do, change my mind? I’m going to give everybody the benefit of the doubt and enough chances out there.”

Extra bases

Brian Schneider’s wife, Jordan, gave birth to the couple’s first child in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., yesterday, and the Nationals catcher won’t be back in the lineup until tomorrow at the earliest. Tatum Elizabeth Schneider was born at 10:03 a.m. and weighed 7 pounds, 14 ounces. …

Washington plays split-squad games today. Jason Simontacchi will start against the Dodgers in Viera, with Matt Chico and Chad Cordero pitching in relief. Jason Bergmann starts against the Houston Astros in Kissimmee, followed by Beltran Perez. …

Acta announced that Jerome Williams will start tomorrow against the Atlanta Braves in Lake Buena Vista. Tim Redding, also competing for a rotation spot, will come out of the bullpen. …

Principal owners Mark Lerner and Robert Tannenbaum attended yesterday’s game, accompanied by other family members.

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