Patton's changeup

Initially upset by trade, lefty warms up to being an Oriole

New acquisition

December 15, 2007|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,Sun Reporter

Troy Patton knew his name was circulating in trade talks, and he recognized the area code on the five phone calls that he missed while sleeping. They were coming from the Houston area, and they were easy to interpret without listening to the messages.

"That usually means the Astros are trying to get ahold of me. All of their guys have it," he said. "I was like, `Oh no, I think I got traded.'"

Once considered almost untouchable in the Astros' farm system, Patton found out Wednesday that the Orioles had included him in a five-player package for shortstop Miguel Tejada. And his initial reaction was typical of a 22-year-old who lived the dream by pitching for his hometown team as a rookie this season.

He was crushed.

One of the missed calls came from a Houston Chronicle reporter who posted a quote from Patton on the paper's Web site that read: "It's kind of really disappointing, honestly." Word quickly spread through the Baltimore area, with liberties taken in the interpretation, that he didn't want to come here.

This wasn't the first impression Patton wanted to make. And it wasn't the reaction area fans wanted to hear after the Orioles' Aubrey Huff used a vulgar term to describe the city during a recent radio appearance.

"I was kind of shocked because I felt like the Astros were going to do a rebuilding thing, at least with the pitching staff," he said yesterday. "There's nothing bad about Baltimore at all. I'm not disappointed at all in the fact that I got traded. The disappointment was I'm here in Houston and just got my feet wet in the majors, and now I'm going somewhere else."

Patton, who made two starts among his three appearances with the Astros this season, had no idea the Orioles were in the American League East until later that morning.

"I'm excited about having the chance to play in New York and Boston and at Camden Yards. Those are great places," he said. "I didn't mean in any way to insult Baltimore. The interview was literally five minutes after I woke up and heard the news, so I was still spinning, like, `Is this really happening?'"

Patton is regarded as the key player for the Orioles in the deal, a pitcher with command and intelligence who was named the high school Player of the Year in Texas as a senior after going 12-0 with a 0.91 ERA. The Longhorns offered him a scholarship, but he signed with the Astros and received a $550,000 bonus after they chose him in the ninth round of the 2004 draft.

"We had him rated as a really good prospect," said Joe Jordan, who worked as a national cross-checker with the Florida Marlins that year before becoming the Orioles' director of scouting.

"We weren't going to be able to pay him the money that it was going to take, and Houston was the only club that could sign him because it's his hometown. But I liked him a lot."

Patton, who posted a 3.55 ERA and held opponents to a .213 batting average in 12 2/3 innings with the Astros, rarely brings his mid-90s fastball from his high school days. It stays more in the 88-92 mph range with a sinking action, and he also has a slider and changeup.

"In high school, you've got seven days' rest, and I didn't really have to think about pitching," he said. "I was a left-hander throwing 94 mph with movement against high school hitters. I could throw as hard as I wanted all the time."

A National League scout says Patton has a chance to make the rotation this spring, though Patton knows it's doubtful if Erik Bedard isn't traded and Garrett Olson wins a spot.

"He could be the top guy in the whole group [of players acquired]," the scout said. "He's got a lot of ability and a chance to be pretty good. He's really got a good arm and good stuff. I like his upside a lot."

And Patton likes his new team a whole lot more than he did after rising out of bed earlier this week.

"I've calmed down a lot since then and I realize I'm still in a good situation," he said. "I'm 22 and getting to play baseball for a living. Things can never be that bad."

roch.kubatko@baltsun.com

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