Rangers GM Jon Daniels loves his low risk/high reward signings. And so far, many of them have paid off – Marlon Byrd and Jamey Wright, for example.
In an effort to bring in more pitching depth, the Daniels and the Rangers unveiled the man who is about to become their latest LR/HR signing: former Nationals hurler John Patterson.
Patterson was the Nat’s opening day starter last year, but has battled elbow problems the past two seasons, resulting in him making only a grand a total of just 15 starts in that time. He was released just three days ago by the Nationals, who where not pleased enough with Patterson’s progress in his recovery this spring, as he had given up 7 runs on 13 hits in just 3 spring outings totaling 9 innings. Reports say Patterson was hitting the low 80’s with his fastball, as opposed to the 90 mph or so the Nat’s where looking for, so Washington GM Jim Bowden chose to cut bait, saying "Obviously, we thought we could get him back to where he was three years ago, and it never happened."
Daniels, however, looked past Patterson’s dismal spring and health problems, saw perhaps his next possible diamond in the rough, and swooped into the negotiations with the right-hander, seemingly knocking the cross-state rival Houston Astros out of the front-running for his services. Patterson, who had his career year in 2005 before the problems in his arm developed, was 9-7 that year for the Nat’s, throwing 198.3 innings, and posting a stellar 3.13 ERA and 1.195 WHIP, along with a 130 ERA+ and holding opposing hitters to a .233 batting average. He also struck out 185 that year, as opposed to giving up 65 walks.
He was off to a solid start in 2006 as well, going 1-0 with a 3.86 ERA in his first four starts when his first arm problems struck. He went on the 15-day DL on April 28th with a "right forearm strain". He wasn’t re-activated until June 23rd, and he made just four more starts before again going on the DL July 14th, with another "right forearm strain". He underwent elbow surgery on July 20th of ’06, and was out for the season.
The Nat’s still made him their opening day starter in 2007, but he was clearly not himself, going 1-5 with a 7.47 ERA in 7 starts before going on the 15-day DL again on May 6th with elbow and biceps soreness brought on by a nerve problem. He would later be moved to the 60-day DL as the problem persisted, and eventually even took a trip up to Toronto to undergo an alternate form of treatment in an attempt to avoid another surgery. It was all for naught though, as Patterson wound up undergoing that second elbow surgery on September 13th, 2007, to decompress the radial nerve in his right elbow.
That’s the surgery he’s still recovering from this spring, and Patterson knows he’s damaged goods. "I didn’t progress as fast as they wanted me to progress" he said upon his release. "After what I’ve been through the past two years, I think it was a risk [the Nationals] where not willing to take."
The Rangers know that too, but Daniels still sees some potental here: "It’s no-risk for a guy who’s had success in the big leagues. We want to bring him in, get him healthy, and send him [to triple-A]."
I would tend to agree with JD’s assessment, too – unlike Sidney Ponson, Patterson is a pitcher with actual potential – in fact the past, he’s shown ace potential. And while I kind of doubt Patterson (who turned 30 this past January) will ever completely return to the level he was on in 2005, if he can get close, he can certianly be an asset to the Rangers rotation. And even if he doesn’t there’s no harm in letting him eat up a few innings down in AAA, especially with the way things have gone pitching-wise for the Rangers this spring.
Even though the odds are probably not in favor of Patterson actually making an impact on the Major League level this year in Texas, this signing will bear watching – JD has had some good luck in the past with these under-the-radar signings, and you never know when lighting will strike again.