A lot happened to Wingnuts outfielder Ryan Patterson during the offseason, but not much changed.
He was signed by the Arizona Diamondbacks organization. He was released by the Arizona Diamondbacks organization. He was moved to left field.
Now, after projected starting center fielder Brent Clevlen was sold to the Cincinnati Reds on Sunday, Patterson is back in center for the Wingnuts. Just like he was last season, but it was quite the circuitous route.
Patterson couldn't stick with the Diamondbacks despite hitting close to .400 in spring training. The 5-foot-11, 205-pounder is a Wingnuts centerpiece after batting .296 with 15 home runs in 2010.
"The numbers game frustrates you because you want to be in someone's plans, you want someone to take a chance on you," Patterson said. "Being around for a while, I understand how the game works. That's the business side of it. It doesn't upset me about the game of baseball — I still love it."
Being released is becoming a too-familiar feeling for Patterson. A fourth-round pick by the Blue Jays out of LSU in 2005, Patterson has shown a lot during his time in affiliated ball, but never quite enough for an organization to hold onto him.
The Blue Jays released Patterson after the 2008 season, even though he hit 73 home runs in four seasons, reaching Double-A in his first full season.
"I'm not one of those guys who's going to show up the first day and you're just going to be wowed by everything I do," Patterson said. "I'm kind of one of those guys who's just a grinder, so it's tough for me to go in there in spring training and prove myself. It's tough when you don't do anything crazy good. I feel like I'm just a little bit above average across the board."
The Detroit Tigers let Patterson go at the end of spring training last year, forcing Patterson to look at options outside of affiliated ball. He found one with the Wingnuts, and true to his reputation he started slow.
But Patterson became the Wingnuts' most reliable hitters in the second half, and he led the team in home runs, RBIs (72), doubles (24) and triples (three).
His career numbers and his status as a former high-round draft pick mean Patterson is a candidate for another chance with a major league organization, even though time could be running out.
"I feel a little further away for the simple fact that every year it's tougher to get back in," Patterson said. "But if I was to get a chance, I feel like I've fixed a lot of things in my game that have always been negatives for me."
Patterson said he worked on intangibles, such as being more consistent and being more baseball savvy and able to handle change. It has been a good offseason for him to enact the latter philosophy, even though all the changes resulted in no change at all.
The consolation prize is being arguably the most important returning hitter for a team with designs on winning the American Association.
The Wingnuts added power to their lineup in acquiring Juan Richardson and Edwin Bellorin, and Patterson's versatility made such upgrades possible. He'll likely hit in the top third of the lineup, where his speed will give RBI opportunities to the middle of the order, but Patterson's power can help the Wingnuts take early leads.
"In independent ball these days it's all about winning, so if you don't perform people are in and out," Patterson said. "So for (manager Kevin Hooper) to feel like I'm the type of player that he wants to have me here — especially when I call him and tell him I get released and he makes room for me to come back — means a lot to me."