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Patterson's alternate plans include Chicago, not Sydney

By Bruce Miles

Corey Patterson
Corey Patterson
Photo: Mel Bailey

HOUSTON—Cubs fans won't have to watch one of those sappy "Up Close and Personal" features to see Corey Patterson up close and personal in September.

Instead of going to Australia to play for Team USA in the Olympics next month, Patterson will come to Chicago and play for the Cubs after he's finished at Double-A West Tenn.

The Cubs declined an invitation for Patterson to join the Olympic team, which will be announced today. The 21-year-old center fielder appeared to be a lock for the team, but the Cubs claim that Patterson was going to be one of the alternates for the team and not on the 24-man roster that will actually compete in the tournament.

Both Patterson and Cubs brass agreed it would be best for him to play somewhere and not sit on the sidelines.

The Cubs selected Patterson with the third overall pick in the 1998 draft and he instantly became the organization's best prospect. He tore up Class A Lansing last season and was the top prospect in the Midwest League.

He struggled early this season at West Tenn, but he had come on lately to raise his numbers to .260-19-74 with 27 stolen bases.

"The way it went down, I'm glad it happened," said Cubs manager Don Baylor, who has coveted Patterson since spring training. "Three months ago, that was not possible, that he was going to be here. The way he's played, he probably deserves a chance for us to look at him and see the progress he's made since spring training."

Andy MacPhail, the Cubs' president and general manager, saw Patterson play several weeks ago. Originally he wasn't enthusiastic about bringing Patterson up, but Baylor said MacPhail came away impressed enough to give the idea a new shot if the Olympic experience didn't work out.

Patterson will stay with West Tenn throughout their playoffs, which could go until mid-September. Baylor said he would let Patterson settle into the big league environment and then give him a start.

However it turns out, Patterson will be in the mix next season to win the starting center field job or at least share time with Damon Buford.

Right now, Patterson is nursing a twisted left ankle he suffered Sunday night. He is expected to return to action by the beginning of next week.

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