Notes: Patterson embraces leadoff role

Notes: Patterson embraces leadoff role

MILWAUKEE -- Getting manager Dusty Baker to talk about his team's leadoff hitter has not always been the easiest of tasks this season, but Baker was more than willing to discuss the change he made to the top of his lineup for Wednesday's game.

Corey Patterson had long made his dislike for the leadoff position known, but a change of heart had the Cubs center fielder slotted into the No. 1 spot.

A few words from Vince Coleman, the Cubs Minor League baserunning instructor, nearly a month ago had an impact on Patterson and he rethought his opinion of wanting to hit almost anywhere in the lineup except first.

"When [Patterson] called me over, I didn't know what he was going to tell me," Baker said. "It sounds like good news to my ear."

The advice from Coleman was nothing too particular, Patterson said, but just an overall agenda of how he could better suit the team by setting an early trend.

"Basically, it was for me to take advantage of what I have," Patterson said of the advice. "Put yourself in the right situation to help yourself and this team, and go from there. Things don't always work out, but that doesn't mean you try to change anything or whatever.

"I came to the conclusion [based on] what we have on this team, and people stealing bases, bunting. I think I possess [these skills] the best to hit leadoff."

That is the thought that Baker has had all along in terms of Patterson's abilities. Being in the top spot of the lineup is the position that Baker has always envisioned for Patterson. Throughout Spring Training, Baker had hoped to make Patterson his main man at the position, but Patterson's wishes to bat at another spot forced Baker to hold off on putting him in the role.

Jerry Hairston had been the Cubs leadoff man on the days that he would start, with Neifi Perez filling in on Hairston's off-days. Though Baker thought Perez was doing a good job, Patterson's natural athletic tendencies fit better into the role.

"He can steal more, do more things and get more into the flow of the game, and help to control the flow of the game by what he does," Baker said of Patterson. "He's ready to be the igniter, and this is what we've been hoping for here full-time."

And why now, after a month, did it finally sink in to Patterson that he would be a better fit in the top spot?

"Basically, it was about helping this team," Patterson said. "I think I'll be able to use my tools in the right position and right area. That's basically it. Take some attention off myself that I put on myself and divert it somewhere else if possible."

Diverting attention elsewhere could be helpful for Patterson, who has struggled with the bat early this season. Patterson is hitting .255 so far this season with 10 home runs. For a player who thought of himself more as a hitter than someone who could do the little things, Patterson has not been able to get the numbers that he would like.

Baker couldn't stop smiling about his new leadoff man, and with Patterson initiating the move, don't expect it to be a short-term event, either.

"I hope so," Baker said of making it permanent. "I've got him there against [Milwaukee starter Doug] Davis tonight, even though he hits Davis good."

   Mark Prior  /   P
Born: 09/07/80
Height: 6'5"
Weight: 230 lbs
Bats: R / Throws: R

Still question marks: While it is assumed that Mark Prior will start Sunday's game against the White Sox, there still is no official word yet on the Cubs starter.

Baker said that a decision will be made after Prior, who threw 77 pitches in a simulated game Tuesday, determines how his body feels after the session.

"Basically, it's up to Mark and his body," Baker said. "How his body responds tomorrow, the second day after he throws, will determine a lot. And Mark knows his body pretty well for a young man and how he feels. So it's basically on Mark."

Heating up: The second of the two series with the White Sox is inching closer, and that means the talk between the two teams about the rivalry is once again starting to heat up.

Though Baker continues to say the series is more for the fans and the media, he doesn't deny that there is some intensity between the two teams, with both squads contenders in their own pennant races. Baker stirred up the pot a little himself by saying that the Cubs aren't getting as much attention for their good play.

"Sure, they have played excellent ball," Baker said of the Sox. "I think we give them more compliments on how they play than they give us as a team."

Futures stars: The U.S. and World rosters for the 2005 All-Star Futures Game were announced on Wednesday, and two Cubs prospects were selected to participate.

Felix Pie and Scott Moore will represent the Cubs organization in the event that takes place on July 10, two days prior to the All-Star Game, and features the top Minor League prospects in a United States vs. the World format. Each team has a 25-man roster.

Pie, an outfielder for Double-A West Tenn, was selected to the World Squad for the third consecutive year. So far this season, Pie is hitting .304 in 49 games for the Diamond Jaxx with 11 homers and 25 RBIs. Pie is off to a good start in the Southern League, where he is third in the league with five triples and sixth in slugging percentage (.554).

Moore will be making his first appearance for the U.S. In 62 games as a shortstop for the Class A Daytona Cubs, Moore has a batting average of .311 with 15 home runs and 51 RBIs. Moore is tied for second in RBIs in the Florida State League and ranks third in home runs through Tuesday's games.

On deck: The Cubs will finish off their four-game series with the Brewers by sending Glendon Rusch to the mound to face Ben Sheets on Thursday. Rusch will be making his 10th start of the season and first against Milwaukee. Rusch is 1-0 against the Brewers with a 0.00 ERA this season in two relief appearances.

Kelly Thesier is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.