THIS STORY HAS BEEN FORMATTED FOR EASY PRINTING

Position flexibility puts versatile Patterson in play

By Nate Taylor
Globe Correspondent / July 4, 2010

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The news brought so many thoughts into Eric Patterson’s head. There he was, with the Oakland Athletics on June 26, getting traded across the country to the Red Sox.

Patterson first thought about the tradition of the Red Sox and how he always enjoyed playing in historic Fenway Park. Then he thought about the fans — how they always have been loyal. He also would be able to spend some time with his friend Dustin Pedroia, Patterson’s roommate when they played for the US national team for two summers in college.

But Patterson also thought about why the Red Sox acquired him.

He knew Pedroia had suffered a nondisplaced fracture in his left foot that day, which could keep him out for months. So even though Patterson was saddened to see Pedroia get hurt, he was also excited to get an opportunity to play regularly for the Red Sox — a role he didn’t have with the Athletics.

With a multitude of players on the disabled list, Patterson is the latest newcomer to the Boston lineup. Players such as Bill Hall, Darnell McDonald, and Daniel Nava have contributed to the Red Sox staying in the American League East race. Patterson has been asked to do the same, with a reputation for solid defense and the ability to steal bases.

And he is capable of doing it from different positions. Sox manager Terry Francona has started Patterson twice in left field and last night he played second base, going 1 for 4 with two runs in the Red Sox’ 9-3 victory over Baltimore.

“It was good to get out there and gets some at-bats,’’ said Patterson, who hit .204 in 103 at-bats with the A’s, stealing six bases. “I’m still trying to do the same things here as I did over there.’’

Patterson, 27, said he saw limited time with Oakland because the team wanted to give younger players an opportunity. That forced Patterson to focus on being a reserve, ready to pinch hit or come in for defense.

The question now is where Patterson will play in Boston. He said he grew up playing second base, but during his big league career he mostly has played the outfield. With Pedroia’s absence, Patterson will be given a chance at second, likely splitting time with Hall.

Francona also said Patterson’s athleticism allows him to possibly spell Mike Cameron in center field if Cameron is troubled by his ongoing abdominal soreness.

“It’s at the point where I’m comfortable playing everywhere,’’ Patterson said. “It’s just nice to be in the lineup.’’

Patterson’s older brother, Corey, leads off for the Orioles, and they have had time this series to speak in person.

“He sounded enthusiastic and very excited to come to a better team,’’ Corey said. “When you’re winning, it cures a lot of things. If he does some positives, it’s going to not be looked over.’’

During the Athletics’ slide the last two months, Corey said Eric stayed positive. Now Corey is happy his younger brother is playing for a division contender.

“I’m pulling for him,’’ Corey said. “When he came from Oakland, he knew he did a pretty good job in the limited time he had to play.’’

So far, Francona has been impressed.

“He’s had real good at-bats against righties,’’ Francona said. “That’s where we want to use him. He doesn’t have a lot to show for it, but he’s swung the bat pretty well.’’

Nate Taylor can be reached at ntaylor@globe.com.

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