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Published: 6/17/2001

Never too late for majors

BY JOHN WAGNER
BLADE SPORTS WRITER
Patterson: beats the odds Patterson: beats the odds
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Cue the Rocky theme: Jarrod Patterson has been called up to the major leagues.

Well, OK, so Patterson's call-up by Detroit from Toledo on Friday night may not have been quite so dramatic - or unexpected.

But give the 27-year-old Patterson credit for beating the odds and earning his first call-up to the majors in his ninth professional season.

The 6-1, 195-pound third baseman began the season with the Hens. He also began the season on the bench as Tom Evans earned the majority of the Hens' early-season playing time at third.

“Early in the season I would pinch-hit, DH and play a utility role,” Patterson said. “But it's hard to get into a rhythm when you're not playing every day.”

And Patterson's numbers during his first month in Toledo back that up. He batted just .222 in 54 at-bats spread out over 22 games, with only one home run and four RBIs.

But then Patterson got a great break that was disguised as a bad break. Double-A Erie's third baseman, Brant Ust, was injured and on May 15 the Tigers decided to send Patterson down to the SeaWolves to replace Ust.

“Things happen for a reason,” said Patterson. “I decided to accept the assignment with a positive attitude, because you can go to the big leagues just as easily from Double-A as Triple-A.

He posted a .400 batting average in Erie with seven homers and 18 RBIs. Patterson also earned a recall to the Hens on June 7 when Evans' contract was sold to the Hanshin Tigers of the Japanese Central League.

And Hens manager Bruce Fields quickly realized Patterson was a different hitter. “What he was doing down there he brought up here,” Fields said. “He wasn't taking as many fastball strikes, and the pitches he's been swinging at he's been putting into play with authority.”

In the seven games Patterson played after his return to Toledo he batted .433 with three homers and seven RBIs in just 30 at-bats. He also scored 10 runs and was a big reason the Hens won all seven of those contests.

Even though Patterson's promotion to the majors left the Hens short a player on Friday, Fields was happy Patterson got the call. “This is his first opportunity to play in the majors, and you can't take that away from him,” Fields said. “He's been playing well and he deserves the spot. I hope he keeps swinging a hot bat and stays up there for 10 years.”

Now wouldn't that be a real Rocky story?



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