Patterson looks to make most of scant playing time

Journeyman, back to being reserve, in lineup for just fourth time this month

August 19, 2010|By Dan Connolly, The Baltimore Sun

Orioles outfielder Corey Patterson is accustomed to the mercurial ways of big league baseball. He's been a can't-miss prospect, overhyped bust, rejuvenated castoff and veteran journeyman.

In 2010 alone, Patterson was a spring training invitee for the Seattle Mariners, out of work completely, an Orioles farmhand, and a major-league starter. Now, he is back to being a reserve, in the starting lineup Thursday for just the fourth time in August.

"For me, I just come in every day and I still do my same routine mentally and physically. I switch it here and there," said Patterson, who was hitting .277 with seven homers and a team-leading 18 steals in 65 games. "You just kind of mix things up, keep yourself mentally from not being bored and keep your focus. So when you do get that call and you are in there, like I am [Thursday], you are ready."

After his recall from Triple-A Norfolk on May 12, Patterson started 49 of the club's next 57 games, showing some power, solid contact and his trademark blazing speed. But when left fielder Felix Pie and designated hitter Luke Scott returned from the disabled list in July, Patterson's playing time evaporated.

Patterson homered and tripled in his last start — Aug. 10 at Cleveland — and has had just one at-bat since, heading into Thursday. Yet, he's taking it in stride,

"I have been in pretty much every situation," Patterson said. "I have been a starter for much of my career. I've come off the bench. I don't really view it as being hard or tough."

Patterson, 31, said his mindset is to make the most of whatever playing time he gets. He wants to return to Baltimore in 2011, but he also knows he is playing for 29 other teams as well.

"The way I look at it really is I hope I play well for [ the Orioles] for them to ask me back for next year," Patterson said. "Whatever decision they make, if I am not part of that, then I hope I play well for the other teams. Hopefully, they have seen what I have done this year and that I can help a ballclub out."

Patterson has played in the majors for four other organizations, but he seems to have his best seasons with the Orioles. That hasn't gone unnoticed by his new boss.

"He has always been pretty successful here in Baltimore and you throw out everywhere else," said manager Buck Showalter.

Showalter started Patterson at designated hitter Thursday — resting rookie third baseman Josh Bell and moving Scott from DH to first base and Ty Wigginton from first to third — because the Orioles face consecutive left-handers on Friday and Saturday, and he wouldn't be starting the lefty-hitting Patterson in those games.

He said it's been a challenge to get reserves like Patterson and Jake Fox enough at-bats to keep them fresh. Showalter's lineup juggling is completely different from what Orioles managers Dave Trembley and interim Juan Samuel encountered earlier this season, when they were scrambling just to assemble a competitive lineup every day.

"It's a good problem to have but it is also a challenge, especially in the American League more than anything," he said.

Handling the lineups

Showalter said he had a coach inform Patterson on Wednesday night that he would be playing Thursday. When possible, Showalter said he likes to tell players, especially reserves, ahead of time when they're starting.

"You try to give it to the players as far in advance without the possibility of change," Showalter said. "I think it is the unknown for the players more than anything (that bothers them)."

Showalter said there are plenty of variables that can alter his lineup from the ending of a game one night to first pitch the next. Therefore, he said, he doesn't expect to post his lineups a day ahead. In 2009, Trembley, for instance, would write his lineups in advance and post them in the workout room — away from the media — on the night before the next game.

"More times than not, things that go on at 10 o'clock at night or 10:30 are subject to a lot of change the next day. And that kind of confuses players sometimes," Showalter said. "I have been able to do that before. [But here] it's more personal or verbal, than putting something up there."

Wieters followed Machado negotiations

Orioles catcher Matt Wieters, who holds the franchise record for highest amateur signing bonus when he agreed to a $6 million contract in 2007, said he was curious about what the club would do with No. 3 overall pick Manny Machado.

Machado, a Miami prep shortstop, signed a $5.25 million bonus on Monday night. It was the second largest doled out by the Orioles to an amateur. Machado, like Wieters, is represented by agent Scott Boras. Both agreements were reached within five minutes of the signing deadline.

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