- The Washington Times - Monday, March 17, 2008

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — John Patterson knew he would have a frustrating time trying to re-establish himself as one of the Washington Nationals’ top starters after having arm surgery in September. Yesterday was as good an example of that as any.

The right-hander started off well, showing more zip on his fastball than he has displayed all spring and effectively mixing a curveball. But the Orioles’ Ramon Hernandez doubled off Patterson to start the third. And when Hernandez scored after Humberto Cota couldn’t handle Garrett Guzman’s throw to the plate on Brandon Fahey’s single, the Orioles added two more runs.

Patterson went four innings, giving up six runs on eight hits. He battled a virus all last week, and said “everything but my forearm” felt tight yesterday.

“I didn’t feel good all day,” he said. “I didn’t warm up well. It was just one of those days where I pushed and did the best I could with what I had.”

Pitching coach Randy St. Claire said Patterson shows flashes of his old self, but also could see the fatigue in his delivery.

“At times it looked like it came out of the hand good, but at other times it didn’t have the zip to it,” St. Claire said. “That’s spring training. You have those periods, but you have to go out there and pitch.”

While he rehabilitates the arm troubles he had last year and waits for his velocity to return, Patterson finds encouragement in moments like the first two innings. His fastball was nowhere near his normal low-90s velocity, but it snapped late on hitters.

“I’ll throw some fastballs sometimes, and the ball’s just, ‘Boom,’ ” Patterson said. “I’m not throwing 92, 93 miles per hour right now. But I’m throwing balls at times that have really good late life on them. It may only be 88 miles per hour … and then there’s times I throw a fastball, and it’s like throwing a bowling ball sometimes. That’s how it goes.”

While Patterson said the process of trying to regain his stuff in live games is frustrating, he knows there’s no alternative.

“At some point, this is going to end,” he said. “It’s rehab by fire, basically. There’s only one way to get out of it, and that is to throw and to pitch.”

Guzman impresses

Guzman continued his long-shot bid to open the season as the Nationals’ fourth outfielder, hitting a two-run homer and throwing a strike from left field that would have thrown out Ramon Hernandez in the second inning had Humberto Cota handled the throw.

Guzman, a Rule 5 pick, is by no means a finished product. He is hitting .235 and left four runners on base yesterday. Still, he has showed enough power, hustle and throwing ability to keep himself in the picture.

Injury updates

Acta said both left fielder Elijah Dukes and third baseman Ryan Zimmerman will play today against the Mets. Dukes strained his right hamstring Friday, and Zimmerman hasn’t played since developing tightness in his right hip flexor against Atlanta on Tuesday.

He also said the plan is for right-hander Shawn Hill, who hasn’t pitched in spring training because of soreness in his shoulder, to throw on the side tomorrow and start throwing batting practice this week.

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