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Patterson Uses Start To Best Advantage

By Amy Shipley
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, April 11, 2005; Page D08

MIAMI, April 10 -- Washington Nationals Manager Frank Robinson tried to move things along after an 8-0 loss to the Florida Marlins on Sunday at Dolphins Stadium, urging reporters to finish their interviews with starting pitcher John Patterson so the team could pack its bags and get on the road to Atlanta for the start of another series Monday.

Patterson, though, stood placidly in the center of the visiting team's clubhouse, fists stuffed in the pockets of his navy dress pants, blue oxford shirt untucked, swaying back and forth on bare feet. It was, perhaps, a bit symbolic: Patterson looked in no particular hurry to go anywhere.

Nats spot starter John Patterson pitched seven innings, allowing two runs on six hits: "It was a good day." (Marc Serota -- Reuters)

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Patterson, starting only temporarily this afternoon in place of the injured Tony Armas Jr., made a case for a more lengthy stint in the rotation despite getting the loss. In seven innings, Patterson allowed two runs and six hits, striking out six and walking one. Robinson described Patterson as "outstanding" and having "complete control."

Asked what he took from his day's work, Patterson shrugged.

"Stay right where I'm at," he said. "Get guys out. Stay in the game. Don't change a thing."

Early on, Patterson looked about the equal of Marlins starter Josh Beckett, the 2003 World Series MVP, who earned a shutout and finished with 11 strikeouts. The pair tangled in a 0-0 ballgame through six innings that had the makings of a classic duel. Patterson gave up only four hits, all singles. He allowed only one batter to reach second base and struck out five. In the fourth through sixth, the Marlins went down in order.

"His fastball was electric all day," said Marlins catcher Paul Lo Duca.

The seventh inning only slightly marred an otherwise perfect day. After allowing a single and a walk, Lo Duca hit a two-out, pinch-hit double that drove in the only runs against Patterson. Lo Duca said he snagged one of Patterson's sliders, having observed that he had thrown the same pitch earlier with men on base.

Patterson "didn't break down in the seventh," Robinson said. "He had two outs. He got a ball up and out over the plate to Lo Duca and he hit it."

Patterson showed off the same variety of pitches he had when he was selected fifth overall in the 1996 draft by the Montreal Expos. The 27-year-old right hander, however, had ligament replacement elbow surgery in May 2000 that severely curtailed his progress for a couple of seasons. Last summer, in his most extended major league action, he went 4-7 with a 5.03 ERA in 19 starts, striking out 99 in 98 1/3 innings.

"We faced him in spring training," Lo Duca said, "and he threw dynamite."

Patterson, however, is expected to be pushed into a middle-relief role once Armas comes off the disabled list Tuesday -- though he likely will receive a minor league rehabilitation stint before returning to a starting role.

Robinson said Patterson's performance "doesn't change [his situation] overnight."

Patterson seemed in no mood for analysis. The simple approach he took against the Marlins, mixing up his pitches and making good ones, was reflected in his postgame comments, which were far more straightforward than philosophical. This, it seemed, was a guy just happy to enjoy a good afternoon.

"Overall, I thought it was a good day," he said. "I had all of my pitches going, a fastball, cutter and curveball, with good location. . . . I'm just trying to get guys out."

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