© 2008 MLB Advanced Media, L.P. All rights reserved.

03/24/08 8:44 PM ET

Rangers sign pitcher Patterson

Long-standing relationship with pitching coach Connor cited

MESA, Ariz. -- The Rangers have signed a pitcher with a 7.00 ERA, a .317 opponents' average against and who was released by another club. But they are still feeling good about Kason Gabbard, their fourth starter, even though he has a 10.80 ERA and opponents are hitting .394 off him.

John Patterson was the pitcher the Rangers added, signing him to a Minor League contract on Monday, less than a week after being released by the Washington Nationals. Patterson, who was the Nationals' Opening Day pitcher in 2007, was pursued by a number of teams, but chose to go with the Rangers because of a long-standing relationship with pitching coach Mark Connor from their time together with the Diamondbacks.

"He understands what I need," Patterson said. "He's a big part of why I am here."

Patterson was 9-7 with a 3.13 ERA for the Nationals in 2005, but has made just 15 starts over the past two years, because of nerve damage in his right forearm. He underwent surgery on Sept. 14. The Nationals then released him .

He passed his physical on Monday and will begin a long-toss throwing program on Tuesday. The Rangers don't expect him to be ready to pitch in the Minor Leagues until late April or early May.

"I just need to throw," Patterson said. "I need to get out there and start throwing again. With the work I did in the offseason, I see my velocity getting there. It's just a matter of getting my strength built up and maintaining it over the course of the year."

While Patterson was reporting to the Rangers camp in Surprise, Ariz., Gabbard was making his fifth start in a Cactus League against the Cubs in Mesa. He gave up four runs in the first inning and six over six innings in the Rangers' 7-6 loss.

Former Ranger Mark DeRosa hit a three-run home run off Gabbard in the first inning. But manager Ron Washington pointed out that Gabbard had a wild pickoff throw to second earlier in the inning that allowed runners to move to second and third with one out. Gabbard then got the batter to hit what could have been an inning-ending double play without the wild throw.

"I thought [Gabbard] was pretty good," Washington said. "We should have gotten out of that inning without any runs. But I thought he hung in there, and battled and got through his innings. That was good enough for me."

Washington's preference is to still keep Gabbard in the fourth spot and let him pitch the fourth game of the season against the Angels. If he does that, Luis Mendoza would go to Triple-A Oklahoma, until the Rangers need a fifth starter on April 12. The Rangers will discuss that further later on this week.

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