The Truth Comes Out
I must say that I'm particularly impressed by the Press Release at MLB.com, which calls his injury "right elbow biceps soreness," a wholly new condition that seems the result of a drunken bout of Mad Libs, rather than an actual health professional's diagnosis. Certainly there's a comma or three missing there. I think I'm going to miss work tomorrow with top head neck soreness. Or maybe middle stomach bowel irratibility?
The injury is really no surprise to anyone who's watched his starts. He's been trying to fight his way through the bicep strain all year, and it showed in the way he was pitching.
I've had my hunch all along that he was trying to work through something based on the ineptness of his pitches. As I've said a bazillion times, the velocity loss didn't scare me, but the loss of stuff on his breaking pitches did. It wasn't until a start or two ago that he finally was able to snap off that monster curve which led his success in '05 more than even his mid-90s fastball did. And strangely, in Saturday's start, he seemed to rear back and throw sliders -- perhaps the most difficult pitch to throw with a barking elbow -- more than he had all season. Maybe this was his way of giving it one go? He's known all along that he was hurting, so why not let loose and see if the elbow holds up? Well, it didn't. And he's found himself back where he's been so many times before, the DL.
I'm a huge fan of John Patterson, and have been a pretty strong advocate for him, thinking that he really is an ace -- just one who can't stay healthy. I fell in love with his curves (hey, now!) in '05, and I know that's in there; it's just that his body won't let him do it.
At the same time, he's a maddeningly frustrating performer to watch, because he doesn't have the mentality of an ace. Nobody would ever call him a bulldog, which is why the attempts to dub him "Big Nasty" have been so laughable. He needs everything perfectly in synch, and needs to feel right to throw effectively. He seems particularly poor at shutting out outside distractions, and working through when he's not 100%, which is what many pitchers need to do.
Now that's not to say that he needs to go out there and reel off sliders when his elbow is swelling to the size of a grapefruit -- it's the other things that he's needed to push through -- a litany of which, the Post detailed today: dehydration, sharp needles, etc. It's this tendency, which I've mocked, in part, in the last post.
I'm not going to mock him for the elbow and arm problems. He's clearly suffering there, and his attempts to pitch through it are worth the applause, even if it did appear he was holding back a bit. But given his long arm history and the years he's already missed because of his Tommy John surgery, he's going to be a bit skittish.
I really hope the problem is just some swelling, though the specter of nerve problems is not a good sign:
Patterson underwent an MRI on Sunday morning. The doctors found no structural damage, but they did find fluid in the elbow and located some nerve problems. Patterson could be out for a month or more.
"There are some spots where you see the inflammation," Patterson said. "You can see where I had the [elbow surgery]. There is some inflammation there, so I'm starting to feel [some soreness] there again. As far as what's causing it, we don't have an answer to that yet."
The Nationals need a healthy John Patterson. But I'm not sure they're ever going to get one.
The lesson they're learning this year is one that it's taken the Cubs years to learn. When you've got an injury-prone ace, you can't count on them as a central part of your team; that's just a formula for disappointment. But if you build your team with the assumption that you're going to get little from them, when they're finally healthy, they'll find ways to contribute and be a plus.
We're probably at that point with Patterson. Hill's and perhaps Bergmann's emergence is just hammering it home a little more.
Given how terrible the offense has been, it's hard to see how adding Nook Logan and Cristian Guzman is going to help. But Lord knows, it really can't be worse.
I'm really going to be interested to see how Acta handles centerfield, especially with Langerhans on the roster now.
With Guzman coming back at short, Felipe Lopez moves back to second, which is a good thing for the team. Lopez seems to have lost a step or two at short, and the number of grounders that rolled through the left side was reaching an alarming rate, and the ones he did get to had a seemingly one in four chance of being tossed to the club seats.
Maybe, just maybe, it's possible that the increase of defense at short will offset the downgrade in offense. After the hot start, Ron Belliard wasn't setting the world on fire.
Casto, at least has a bit of a glove. And although I don't think he's going to hit, they might as well give him some on-the-job training. Lord knows we ain't winning a thing this year anyway.
And besides, we're on the verge of not just being a terrible baseball team with a terrible record, we've got a pretty good chance to have a historically bad offense.