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Notes: Patterson focused on job at hand

Notes: Patterson focused on spring, '07 season

VIERA, Fla. -- Right-hander John Patterson was in a good mood on Wednesday, even though he lost his arbitration case the day before. He will receive $850,000 instead of the $1.85 million he was seeking.

Patterson acknowledged, however, that he is not a fan of the arbitration process because the team had to mention the negative parts of his game. He is coming off a season in which he pitched only eight games.

"To the Nationals' credit, they didn't get nasty with it," Patterson said. "Of course, they had to defend their side and they had to do a good job. They had to pick apart my career, my season in 2005. That's hard to sit there and listen to. But at the same time, it could have been a lot worse.

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"It's business. I was trying to do the best thing for my career and my life, and they were trying to do the best thing for the organization."

While the Nationals are looking for four starters to fill out the rotation, Patterson said he is healthy and ready to pitch the season opener against the Marlins on April 2 at Robert F. Kennedy Stadium. He wants to reach 30 starts and 200 innings.

Last year, he didn't come close to those numbers. Patterson missed most of the season because of a pinched nerve in his right forearm. In the games he pitched, Patterson was limited to throwing just his fastball.

"Even in the games that I was hurting, I was still out there pitching," Patterson said. "The games that I pitched well in, you can look at that and go, 'Even when the guy is hurt, he can still go out and pitch games for us.'"

Surgery on July 20 corrected Patterson's forearm problem. By the end of October, Patterson was playing catch, and he started throwing off the mound in January.

The goal right now is to work on his changeup, a pitch he tried to perfect last season, but one which he couldn't throw because of the forearm injury. He wants to throw the pitch only to left-handed hitters while relying on his slider to righty batters.

"I don't, by any stretch, feel that I'm game-ready right now, but I have been throwing and feeling good," Patterson said. "I still want to continue with my arm strength, but the breaking balls I've thrown during the offseason feel great. I have no doubts in my mind what my health is and how I feel. I just want to keep moving forward."

Patterson will be doing more than just throwing on the mound this season. He is expected to lead a young starting staff. He's not looking to be a vocal leader. He prefers to lead by example.

"I'm not going to say, 'Come here. Watch video with me,'" Patterson said. "If they come up to me and they ask or they stand back and watch what I do and how I prepare, that might be good enough. If they ask me, I will help them."

Let's talk: The Nationals are hoping to avoid arbitration with closer Chad Cordero, so the team will have a meeting with agent Larry Reynolds on Thursday, six days before the arbitration hearing date.

Cordero is looking for a $4.15 million payday, while Washington is offering him $3.65 million.

"We are going to meet ... face-to-face one more time to avoid the process," general manager Jim Bowden said. "We don't like the process. We prefer to settle, but this is big business and there is a lot of dollars at stake with every single signing we have."

High goals: Hitting coach Mitchell Page believes catcher Brian Schneider is capable of hitting .300 in 2007 based on what Schneider did during the final two months of the 2006 season. Schneider hit .324 in his last 42 games.

"I have a lot of confidence with him," Page said. "He has all the tools in the world to hit .300, because he controlled the whole field the last two months of the season. He was probably one of the toughest outs that we had."

Be a part of the mailbag: The Nationals mailbag returns on Monday. Send in your questions now.

Did you know: Third baseman Ryan Zimmerman led the Nationals with 50 multi-hit games in 2006.

Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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