"If we can get him back to full strength by '09, that's fine by what I was hoping to accomplish."
Patton, who was acquired from Houston as one of the main pieces in the Miguel Tejada trade, has been limited for the early portion of Spring Training. He went four months without throwing the ball this winter in an attempt to rehabilitate the injury but wasn't able to get loose or shake the pain during his first few bullpen sessions this spring.
The former ninth-round pick knew he had a serious injury, but never really gave up hope that he'd pitch this year.
"I knew I wasn't coming back soon," said Patton, who has a 27-28 record and a 3.01 ERA in 82 Minor League games. "My arm felt bad enough. I knew I was going to be out at least a month if I had to rehab it and not get surgery. I knew something was wrong. I just didn't know if it was going to be surgery or not."
The 22-year-old is slated to see noted orthopedic specialist Lewis Yocum for a final opinion, but team officials expect a largely similar diagnosis and an operation slated for sometime before the end of the month. Patton will likely be out at least six months and perhaps as many as nine, but he should be ready to pitch by Spring Training next season.
"It's kind of disappointing to miss the season," he said, acknowledging the obvious but allowing for a small bit of relief. "But I'm kind of anxious to get it over with and hopefully feel better and pitch better next season, have a little bit more velocity than I've been pitching with, and I'm looking forward to feeling good throwing a baseball."
MacPhail noted that he's known about the injury since before he swung the trade and indicated that the recommendation for surgery isn't as bad as it sounds. The doctors are optimistic, he said, that Patton should return to health. And as one part of a five-player haul for Tejada, MacPhail said he'd do the trade all over again even if he knew the extent of the injury.
"It's pretty much, again, what I expected," he said. "Sometimes you've got to go the high-risk, high-reward type deal. I could've had a different player in there, but [Patton is] 22, left-handed and already worked his way to the big leagues. I can wait. I'm alright with that. And I think sometimes you need to swing for the fences as part of a deal. I'm obviously very satisfied with the way the other guys from that deal have handled themselves so far in spring. No regrets from my standpoint."
Baltimore also received right-handed pitchers Matt Albers and Dennis Sarfate, infielder Mike Costanzo and outfielder Luke Scott in the trade. Scott is expected to serve as the team's starting left fielder, and both Albers and Sarfate are considered main competitors for a bullpen job. Costanzo, a power-hitting third baseman, may need some time at Triple-A.
"That's the beauty of getting five players. You can take some chances," said MacPhail. "I could've substituted somebody else. We moved a lot of names around. But in the end, if he comes back next year, he's 23 and left-handed and Baseball America's 78th best prospect in the game. I'll take it."