A cautionary tale to all of us never to under estimate the impact of injuries on a pitcher, John Patterson has retired from baseball after two surgeries and nearly three years were unable to rid him of the pain he was suffering in his throwing forearm.
Patterson was originally drafted by Montreal with the 5th overall pick back in 1996, but agent Scott Boras found a loophole that enabled him and a few others (also notable: Matt White), to declare free agency and sign with whoever they wished. For Patterson, that was the Diamondbacks at the even-impressive-today figure of $6.075 million.
Patterson came up through Arizona’s system and spent his first two Major League seasons with them, but just prior to the 2004 season he was traded back to his rightful owners Montreal for relief pitcher Randy Choate. Patterson would be slotted into the Expos’ rotation and begin showing signs of at least adequacy with a 5.06 FIP.
2005 was certainly the crowning achievement of Patterson’s career. He stayed healthy enough to log 31 starts and just under 200 innings over which he maintained his lofty strikeout rate and managed to cut his walk rate from over 10% of batters faced to under 8%. He turned 27 that season and it looked like Patterson was entering his peak.
He began 2006 looking for all the world as if he might even take that peak further. Four starts in Patterson had a ridiculous 32:5 strikeout to walk ratio in just 25.2 innings. But the injury bug hit and Patterson was on the shelf until June. He made four more starts upon his return, was near as effective and then was shut down for the remainder of the year.
2007 was another brief flirt at the big league level before more forearm pain sent him to the operating table. Thinking or hoping that he was finally clear of the troubles this season, Patterson signed a minor league contract with the Rangers after being cut loose by the Nationals who didn’t take to his poor Spring Training results. He wouldn’t last long with the Rangers either, just till May, when his forearm pain returned and he was forced to call it quits on 2008 and hope that rest would fix the problem.
Earlier in December, Patterson began again on a throwing program, but with a return of forearm troubles, Patterson has called it good. Part of the inaugural season for the Nationals that saw them surprise many by finishing 81-81 and leading the NL East for a period of time as late as July 24th, Patterson’s 2005 will always stand though as a far too short glimpse of what might have been.