Patterson Plenty Motivated

Patterson getting his timing down

Eric Patterson doesn't need any extra motivation. The second baseman is the top infield prospect in the Cubs' farm system for at least the second year running, and he doesn't have to look very far for inspiration.

This season, Patterson has seen former teammates such as Mike Fontenot get the call up to Chicago and wreck havoc on National League pitching.

To date, he has a solid .300 average through 85 games with Triple-A Iowa.

He has an All-Star nod under his belt for the third consecutive season after being drafted three years ago from Georgia Tech.

He has been awarded and praised; heralded as part of the Cubs future.

All of this would be enough motivation for anyone, except Patterson.

"I don't think anyone needs any more motivation," the 24-year-old Cubs prospect said, referring in particular to the influx of minor league players already promoted to Chicago this season from the Cubs system.

"We all know where we want to be," said Patterson.

Where Patterson will be on Wednesday night is Albuquerque, N.M., where this season's top performers in the Pacific Coast League, such as himself and teammate Micah Hoffpauir, will gather to meet the top performers from the International League at the annual Triple-A All-Star Game. The game is scheduled for 6:35 p.m. (CDT) with television coverage provided by ESPN2.

Since being selected in the eighth round of the 2004 draft, Patterson has enjoyed the good life.

The younger brother of Baltimore Orioles outfielder Corey Patterson (himself a one-time top Cubs prospect) has ascended through the farm system rather quickly, all the while taking home such honors as the Cubs' Minor League Player of the Year in 2005 – a year in which he also won the Midwest League batting title with a .333 average for Class-A Peoria.

He has also performed well in high-profile venues such as the Arizona Fall League, where he batted .345 in 28 games last year, and in Big League Spring Training this past March, where he was 5-for-12 in seven games.

But when the left-handed hitting Patterson closed the first month of 2007 with a .246 average, something was amiss. His timing was off.

Things have since gotten better. As soon as the calendar turned from April to May, Patterson rediscovered his stroke and finished with nine hits in a span of 18 at-bats against the New Orleans Zephyrs in a four-game series.

He proceeded to bat a robust .355 in May and followed that up with a solid .281 campaign the following month. He enters the All-Star break with a nine-game hitting streak and has reached base in 14 consecutive games.

"Timing is something that comes and goes, but you want to get yourself in a position where it doesn't affect you a lot and you're more consistent," Patterson said. "That's really been my main focus and from talking to Von Joshua earlier in the year to now, that's my biggest issue."

Joshua spent 10 seasons in the major leagues and credits Willie Mays as one of his biggest role models throughout his playing career. He later went on to become the hitting coach of the Chicago White Sox from 1998-2001.

The Iowa Cubs' hitting coach has witnessed the improvement from Patterson's early season at-bats first-hand.

"He has a tendency to lift his foot and we're trying to caution him against that," Joshua detailed. "It was throwing him off and getting him into a hitting position kind of late. Now he's getting to the ball a little better, and not as late as he had been. Trying to re-establish his trigger mechanism and keep that foot planted is the main thing."

Meanwhile on defense, Patterson's work is always non-stop. He has committed nine errors this season for a .971 fielding percentage.

The key to improving on defense also starts with footwork, he said.

"That's something we've worked on every day here," Patterson said. "(Iowa manager) Buddy (Bailey) does a good job of making sure we get our work in. With just getting the repetition day in and day out with footwork, turning double plays at second base and approaching groundballs, we get those reps every single day.

"You're only going to improve in the game and I've seen some good results."

And any potential full-time jettison to the outfield, as was rumored and partially over-hyped in the off-season, has been put on hiatus for now.

Patterson has picked up some starts in the outfield this season (11 to be exact), but not enough to warrant a permanent move there.

"Right now, I think we're kind of handcuffed with the (outfielders) we have now," he noted. "We're not able to do as much as maybe we could have done earlier in the year as far as moving guys and getting guys some looks in different spots.

"But wherever I am, that's where I'm going to play and try to play to the best of my abilities," Patterson said.

Whether that's in Iowa or Chicago is at least for now irrelevant to Patterson.

"Just taking pride in what you do and wanting to be up there at that level should be motivating enough for anyone," he said.

His only goals at the All-Star Game are simple.

"Go out there and definitely compete, and try to have fun. You definitely don't want to embarrass yourself out there," Patterson said.

All things considered, there's a good chance he won't.

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