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10/9/07 Q: What Do Kris Benson, Travis Lee, Braden Looper And Billy Koch Have in Common?

A: They were all picked before John Patterson was selected 5th overall by the Montreal Expos in the 1996 MLB Amateur Draft.

     John Hollis Patterson, Washington's 29 year old, lanky, 6'5" 210 pound right-hander was drafted out of high school at West Orange-Stark High in Orange, Texas. Patterson was granted free agency just five months later on a technicality, and signed with the Arizona Diamondbacks, surfacing six years later and going (3-4) over two seasons and 23 appearances with a 4.64 ERA in 85.2 innings before being reacquired by the Nationals in return for reliever Randy Choate eight years after they'd originally drafted him in March of 2004.

     Patterson had already suffered several injuries to his right, pitching, arm by the time he returned to the Nationals in 2004, including a full elbow-blow-out in 2000, that required the Pitcher's Rite of Passage, known as Tommy John Surgery.

     Patterson made 19 starts in 2004 for Montreal going (4-7) with a 5.03 ERA, but it was his second season with the franchise, in their first year in DC, that got Washington Nationals fans excited. Patterson appeared in 31 games and posted a (9-7) record, the third most wins on the team, with a 3.13 ERA on the season, the lowest amongst starters, and led the team in K's with 185, while walking only 65.

     At 27 years of age it seemed John Patterson was finally healthy and ready to reach the potential the franchise had seen in him some ten years earlier. But as the 2006 season started, Patterson was injured after only 8 starts in which he went (1-2) with 4.43 ERA, and after surgery in mid-July, Patterson sat out the rest of the season.

     A supposedly rehabilitated John Patterson only lasted as long as May 5th in 2007, when he left a start against the Cubs in the third inning with a 3-1 count on a batter, and had still not returned to the lineup as the season came to a close in September. Even before he was pronounced officially done, Patterson had struggled to a (1-5) record in 7 starts with an uncharacteristically bloated 7.47 ERA with 22 walks in just 31.1 innings.

     Patterson was placed on the 15-Day DL on May 6th, but on May 12, the Nationals official website announced that there was no "structural damage" to his right elbow. June brought a few bullpen sessions, where Patterson pitched without pain, but the scan of headlines of Patterson articles the rest of the season tells the whole story of the pitcher's 2007 campaign...

     6/24 "Patterson Suffers Setback"
     7/1 "Patterson To Receive Injections in Toronto"
     8/3 "Patterson Says He Is Feeling Fine"
     8/17 "Patterson To Throw Batting Practice Sunday"
     8/25 "Patterson Suffers Setback"
     9/11 "Patterson To Undergo Elbow Surgery"
     9/17 "Patterson's Surgery Successful"

     I have no doubt that a determined John Patterson will work his way back in time for the start of the 2008 season, but after 12 seasons of limited success, can the Nationals afford to invest even the $850,000 dollars the right-hander pitched for in 2007 in a player who is (18-25) in 78 Major league starts with a 4.32 ERA in his six-year career?

     When do you decide to just go with a prospect? Is there anyone in the Nationals system ready to start in Patterson's place? If Patterson was worth $850,000 before yet another surgery, what could the Nationals sign him for now?