These days you’re hearing a lot about the Chicago Cubs farm system and how great it is. And it’s true, there’s a ton of talent in the Cubs‘ minor league system. But sometimes that talent doesn’t actually reach its full potential in the friendly confines of Wrigley Field. Sometimes it takes a change of scenery for a player to hit his stride.
If there’s one team that’s Chicago Cubs East, it’s the Baltimore Orioles, as they have two of the Cubs‘ highest-rated prospects, Corey Patterson and Felix Pie, in their outfield. They join fellow Cubs castoffs Jake Fox (utility infielder) and Orioles president of baseball Andy MacPhail, who was president/CEO of the Cubs from Sept. 9, 1994, until Oct. 1, 2006. MacPhail previously had won two World Series championships as general manager of the Minnesota Twins.
Patterson, the third overall pick in the 1998 MLB Draft, was billed a “five-tool player” when he was coming up through the Cubs’ organization. Pie (pronounced “pee-ay”), a fellow “five-tooler,” likewise had Andre-the-Giant-size hype as his co-pilot to the Majors. Neither lived up to the expectations in The Chi, but both are reinventing themselves now in Camden Yards.
In six years with the Cubs, Patterson hit .252 with a .293 on-base percentage, .414 slugging percentage of .707. During his three seasons in Baltimore, his corresponding numbers rattle off .273, .313, .416, .730, although in about 1,000 fewer at-bats. Still, it’s clear the change of scenery has been good for him. In addition to his time with Baltimore (2006-07, 2010) and Chicago, Patterson has spent time at both the major- and minor-league level with the Washington Nationals, Milwaukee Brewers and Cincinnati Reds.
“I enjoyed my time playing here. I started my professional career here, and I had some good times here,” Patterson said about his time in Chicago during with my exclusive with him Tuesday night.
Obviously, his career has seen more rough seas than smooth sailing, as he’s been shuffled between the parent clubs and AAA affiliates at a few of his MLB career stops. But, today, he says he’s personally grown from all the uncertainty.
“As you get older, you get more experienced, you learn how to deal with certain things, but both places (Chicago and Baltimore) have been great,” he said.
Patterson knows this great game of baseball is as much (if not more so) mental/psychological than physical. When I asked him what aspect of the game he’s working on most right now, he responded: “Probably the mental aspect. I’ve found the right focus, right concentration.”
Pie won the starting Baltimore left field assignment in 2010 after a very strong spring, but he landed on the 60-day disabled list not long into the season, and he remained there until July 6. However, injuries to Nolan Reimold (to whom Pie lost his ‘09 starting job) and Adam Jones (not to be confused with Adam “Pacman” Jones, the legally troubled NFL cornerback) opened the door for Pie to regain his job.
Pie talked about feeling at home playing both the centerfield and left-field positions. “When I play left field now, it feels like centerfield, so I know where I have to be, and it feels great,” he said.
He’s hit .297 (49-165) in his last 45 games with 17 multi-hit efforts. Pie has also hit safely in 18 of last 23 (.349; 30-for-86).
“Everything’s coming together, ‘cause I’m working hard. Every day, I’m hitting in the cage and working my feet. I feel comfortable to make plays. I’m more relaxed ‘cause I play more now,” Pie said.
Pie became the fourth Oriole to hit for the cycle on Aug. 14, 2009, vs. LAA, joining Aubrey Huff (June 29, 2007), Cal Ripken Jr. (May 6, 1984) and Brooks Robinson (June 15, 1960).
Written by Paul M. Banks, president and CEO of The Sports Bank.net , a Midwest-focused webzine. He is also a regular contributor to Chicago Now, the Chicago Tribune’s blog network, Walter Football.com, the Washington Times Communities, Yardbarker Network and Fox Sports.com
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