Tuesday, February 13, 2007
VIERA, Fla., Feb. 12 -- As the Washington Nationals trickled into their home for the next seven weeks, the most significant development regarding the club's future took place nearly 1,900 miles away in Phoenix, where General Manager Jim Bowden and right-hander John Patterson-- the only pitcher solidly in the starting rotation -- sat on opposite sides of Patterson's arbitration hearing.
This is the first time Patterson -- who went 1-2 with a 4.43 ERA in just eight starts last season, when he was limited by arm problems -- has been eligible for arbitration. Patterson asked for a salary of $1.85 million. The Nationals countered with an offer of $850,000. Patterson earned $450,000 last season.
A decision is likely to be rendered Tuesday, when pitchers and catchers are officially due to report. Their first workout is Thursday.
Patterson had a breakout season in 2005, when he went 9-7 with a 3.13 ERA for Washington. But that is the only year in which he has appeared in more than 19 major league games. His talent and ability have the Nationals hopeful he can develop into the anchor for a rag-tag staff this season, but his history of injuries -- from ligament replacement surgery on his elbow to last year's nagging elbow problems -- have some club officials worried he won't be durable enough to take on such a load.
Though the Nationals settled four arbitration cases this offseason -- agreeing to one-year contracts with outfielders Alex Escobar and Chris Snelling and infielder Felipe Lopez and a four-year deal with outfielder Austin Kearns-- the cases of Patterson and closer Chad Cordero appeared destined for hearings from the outset.
Cordero's hearing is set for Feb. 20; he is asking for $4.15 million; the club is offering $3.65 million.
In other news, the club came to terms with outfielder Nook Logan on a one-year deal, leaving third baseman Ryan Zimmerman as the only other unsigned player among the 71 invited to camp. Neither Logan, the presumed starter in center field, nor Zimmerman, the runner-up for the National League's rookie of the year award in 2006, have the three years of major league service time needed to become eligible for arbitration.
-- Barry Svrluga