The Albuquerque Isotopes’ clubhouse was not a cheerful place Sunday afternoon after an 11-5 loss to the Fresno Grizzlies. Yet amid the gloom, right-hander Red Patterson was doing his best to suppress a smile that has not gone away since last Thursday.
That smile has lingered since Patterson stepped onto a Major League mound for the first time. He started the second game of a doubleheader against the Twins in Minnesota, allowing just one run in 4.2 innings.
Before the game, however, Patterson said he was just a big bundle of sweaty, nervous energy. This despite the fact it was below 40 degrees in Minneapolis.
“I think the first time it actually hit was walking out there in the first game to let Donnie (Mattingly) and (Rick) Honeycutt know that I was there,” Patterson said of the Dodgers’ manager and pitching coach. “I kind of walk out and see this huge stadium, you’ve got the Jumbotron, you’ve got different things going on. That was the first time the nerves really set in.”
Patterson then had to wait through Game 1 before getting his opportunity. He trekked out to the bullpen to warm up.
“Beforehand, it was quite nerve-wracking,” Patterson said. “I was trying to keep my routine as much as I could. But knowing where I was and what was going on, it was hard to stay focused. Walking out to go warm up and throw my bullpen and stuff, it was an experience words can’t describe. The feelings of it, the emotions of it, overwhelming me, I guess.
“Honestly, once I started warming up in my bullpen and started having to focus on my pitches and stuff, it kind of locked me in. After that, walking out of the bullpen to the dugout, I tried to keep my head down as much as I could, so I could just kind of keep focused on the task at hand. But it was almost like an out-of-body experience.”
The Twins did not exactly greet Patterson kindly. Brian Dozier and Joe Mauer hit back-to-back singles to lead off the first inning.
“Giving up the first hit to Dozier and then Mauer, first and second, nobody out, I’m like, ‘This isn’t how it’s supposed to go, I’m supposed to strike everybody out here and dominate,’” Patterson said. “Actually when that happened it kind of locked me back in. I’m there for a reason. Do the job, get guys out the best I know how to. After that I was fine.”
Patterson ultimately gave up a sacrifice fly to Josmil Pinto that scored Dozier, but that was all the Twins would score off the right-hander. The Dodgers would ultimately rally to win 4-3, with Patterson getting a no-decision.
There were some familiar faces in the stands and not just in the dugout for Patterson. He said his parents, wife, agent and a family friend were all there to provide some support, with one person in particular standing out.
“When I’d start to lose it a little bit, I’d hear my dad over there yelling at the umpire,” Patterson said. “It kind of relaxed me.”
One of Patterson’s veteran teammates seemed to notice the paternal support. First baseman Adrian Gonzalez helped add to the family’s memories of the day.
“Adrian actually gave the ball that I flipped to him in like the third or fourth inning, he went over and gave it to my parents,” Patterson said. “Everybody, the whole experience, was amazing. Everyone was welcoming and very congratulatory.”
Patterson returned to the Isotopes the day after his debut. He will take the mound again in Albuquerque on Tuesday in the series opener with the Sacramento River Cats.