Patience pays off for Patterson


In second stint with Orioles, his plate discipline is much improved

May 19, 2010|By Jeff Zrebiec, The Baltimore Sun

ARLINGTON, Texas — —

It took only about a week for Orioles outfielder Nick Markakis to notice the difference in Corey Patterson.

"From the first time I played with him to now, it's almost night and day," said Markakis, who was Patterson's teammate with the Orioles in 2006 and 2007. "He looks relaxed up there, he's patient and he's waiting for his pitch."

Patterson, long derided for his free-swinging ways and undisciplined approach at the plate, is earning praise for, of all things, his patience. In his first 32 plate appearances with the Orioles this season since his call-up from Triple-A Norfolk on May 11, Patterson has walked four times. That total is hardly overwhelming unless you consider that in his previous two seasons with the Orioles, Patterson walked just 42 times in 1,002 plate appearances.

In contrast, center fielder Adam Jones walked just four times in his first 173 plate appearances this season.

"The swing is the same. I think, mentally, I'm a lot better," said Patterson, who entered Wednesday night hitting .308. "I'm not all the way there. But mentally as a player, there are always things you can work on. No one has figured the game out. You always want to do better. And I think when things aren't going my way, I'm kind of able to sit back and ask myself what happened and make the adjustment."

Patterson, the team's leadoff hitter, has done a little of everything for the Orioles in his first seven games. He has hit two home runs, both factoring prominently in comeback wins. He has two stolen bases, which, amazingly, ties him for the team lead. He also has one bunt hit, along with a sacrifice bunt.

For years, managers have encouraged Patterson to use his speed more, and he seems to have finally gotten the message.

"I really, honestly didn't know how to bunt, or start learning to bunt, until 2004 in the big leagues. I didn't bunt at all in minorleague ball. Never," Patterson said. "Every year I had some success [hitting in the minors]. So that doesn't mean I shouldn't have learned, but you know, to me, it's like, 'Why bunt? You might hit a homer.' The older I got, the pitchers got tougher, and I learned you better lay a bunt down or maybe two a game."

Roberts diagnosed with pneumonia

Orioles second baseman Brian Roberts was scheduled to fly Wednesday to the team's spring training complex in Sarasota, Fla., to begin a rehabilitation program for the herniated disk in his back. Instead, he went to a Baltimore-area hospital, where he was diagnosed with pneumonia.

Roberts wasn't available for comment, and his agent, Mark Pieper, didn't return calls seeking comment. Orioles president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail said he wasn't sure whether Roberts had been released from the hospital, but the injured second baseman's departure for Sarasota would be pushed back a couple of days.

"We don't anticipate that it's going to be anything that impacts his rehabilitation schedule," MacPhail said.

Roberts isn't eligible to come off the 60-day disabled list until June 9.

Familiar face

Reliever Chris Ray, whom the Orioles traded to the Texas Rangers in December for starter Kevin Millwood, still regularly checks the box scores and keeps in contact with several of his former teammates, and he certainly has empathy for what they are going through.

"It's always a tough situation when you're losing that many games. It's hard to keep positive," said Ray, whose Rangers are in first place in the American League West. "Obviously, I've been there the last few years. It's tough to get through, but the guys over there, they're keeping their heads up and I wish them the best when they're not playing us, of course. It's tough as a player when you're having the kind of season they're having."

The trade has worked out well for both sides. Ray entered Wednesday night 1-0 with a 2.55 ERA in 20 appearances for Texas, and said he feels as if he's back to where he was before he had Tommy John ligament-reconstruction surgery on his right elbow late in the 2007 season. Meanwhile, Millwood has been everything the Orioles had hoped he would be despite the fact that he remains winless, mostly because of poor run support.

"I'm real pleased with where I am," Ray said. "I love playing here. I love playing meaningful games. Every game here, there's a lot of excitement. We're not necessarily looking to October already, but we have a goal set in mind, and it's a realistic goal. At the same token, Millwood is doing a great job for the Orioles. I think he's provided a great example for the starters. He hasn't gotten any wins, but he's definitely pitched well enough to get wins."

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