-- Washington Nationals right-hander John Patterson said Tuesday he continues to feel better after his bout with bronchitis, and his intention is to start Friday's series opener in San Diego.

"I feel better," Patterson said before the Nationals played the New York Mets. "My energy level's going back up. I'm feeling some strength coming back. I'm eating better. All the things that go along with being sick -- eating and my energy -- are getting better."

The problem with Patterson's illness, which surfaced during his last start on Thursday, was not only that he gave up seven runs against Florida -- his worst outing of the year -- but also that it caused him to miss his next start, which was to be Tuesday. Instead, Manager Frank Robinson started reliever Hector Carrasco.

Robinson sounded disappointed that Patterson couldn't start against the Mets.

"I'm not a doctor," Robinson said. "I can't tell you how long it takes to recover from what he had. But it's kind of a little sorry to accept that somebody would say on Friday or Saturday -- four days in advance -- that, 'I can't pitch on Tuesday, but I can pitch on Friday.' "

Patterson said he felt worse Friday and Saturday, and didn't put off his start until the weekend.

"It's been long enough," said Patterson, who threw a bullpen session Tuesday afternoon at Shea Stadium. "I wish I could pitch today."

Ayala's Season Might Be Done

Robinson said there's a chance reliever Luis Ayala will have to stop pitching this season because of a bone spur in his right elbow. But team physician Bruce Thomas hopes Ayala can avoid such a fate. "He doesn't want to do that," Thomas said. "There's a chance that he'll be able to get through this without surgery."

Ayala began throwing Tuesday. Once the league leader in appearances, Ayala has pitched once since Aug. 21. . . .

Robinson was asked if he regrets pulling lefty John Halama on Sept. 7 against Florida when Halama had given up one run in two-thirds of an inning. The Nationals used six relievers that night, putting further strain on an already taxed pen.

"I don't have no [expletive] regrets," Robinson said. "I'm not going to sit there and watch him go ball one, ball two, ball three, ball four. I don't give a [hoot] if it was two outs. He was one hit away from disaster."