- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 20, 2008

VIERA, Fla. — The Washington Nationals released right-hander John Patterson today, a surprising move to cut last year’s Opening Day starter just 10 days before the 2008 season commences.

Patterson, 30, had been hoping to make a triumphant return to the Nationals’ rotation after spending the last two seasons dealing with an assortment of arm injuries. He pitched without pain this spring, but his velocity never came close to his pre-injury form — his fastball registered in the low-to-mid 80s — and team officials were convinced that wasn’t going to change anytime soon.

“Obviously we kept hoping we could get back to the form that he was in three years ago, and it just never happened,” general manager Jim Bowden said.

Patterson enjoyed a breakthrough 2005 in Washington, going 9-7 with a 3.13 ERA in 31 starts. But he made only 15 combined starts the last two seasons, going 2-7 with a 5.75 ERA, and twice had surgery to decompress nerves in his throwing arm.

Re-signed over the winter to a nonguaranteed, major-league deal that would have paid him $850,000 if he made the Opening Day roster, Patterson instead will receive 45 days’ worth of severance pay (roughly $212,500).

The right-hander said he wasn’t shocked by the news but insisted his arm is healthy. He believes he will regain his lost velocity over time.

“I’m not hurt,” he said. “I just think it was that I didn’t progress as fast as they wanted me to progress. After what I’ve been through the last two years, I just think it was a risk they weren’t willing to take.”

Patterson’s release opens the door for one of two young left-handers to make the rotation: John Lannan or Matt Chico. Manager Manny Acta said a decision on those two hasn’t been made yet, but Lannan has impressed club officials this spring more than Chico. The winner of that competition would join opening day starter Odalis Perez, Tim Redding, Jason Bergmann and Shawn Hill, who is expected to be ready by April 13.

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