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Patterson finally has arrived
Nationals pitcher, seemingly finished in pro ball after suffering serious arm injury, is fulfilling his once-enormous potential.


Date published: 5/6/2005

By TODD JACOBSON

WASHINGTON--It'd be easy to start John Patterson's story at the beginning--at a time when things came easy for the 6-foot-6 right-hander. Patterson's fastball and knee-buckling curveball made him the fifth overall pick in Major League Baseball's 1996 First-Year Player Draft.

The Montreal Expos picked him long before they were ever slated to move to Washington, but Patterson used a little-known draft rule to become a free agent. The expansion Arizona Diamondbacks threw $6.1 million at the 18-year-old phenom. Huge expectations were part of the deal.

It'd be just as easy to start in the present. Nine years after he was drafted and long after some people gave up on him, Patterson has blossomed into one of the biggest early season surprises in the major leagues, belatedly maturing into the pitcher the Expos and Diamondbacks always thought he would become.

The lanky right-hander breezed through April with a 0.98 ERA in four starts and hasn't allowed more than three runs in any of his five starts entering tomorrow's outing against the San Francisco Giants.

But in between is where Patterson became a pitcher. It's where everything almost ended, and began again.

All the promise Patterson once showed lay on a hospital table in Birmingham, Ala., in 2000 as baseball surgeon Dr. James Andrews transplanted a ligament from his left arm to replace the damaged one in his right arm.

"I had just turned 22. It was supposed to be my breakout year," Patterson said. "That was the year I was going to break into the big leagues. It basically just crushed my dream to be in the big leagues. I was right on track to just be there and fill right into the rotation and just pitch and it just didn't happen. That was very hard to overcome."


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