Cubs select Patton for opening day roster

He put on a show.

Now Kentridge product David Patton is in The Show.

Patton, a right-hander who hadn’t pitched above the Single-A level in his five previous professional seasons, officially became a part of the Chicago Cubs 25-man roster this past Sunday. Considered a longshot to make the big club when spring training began, Patton put up numbers the Chicago brass simply couldn’t ignore, posting a 1.26 earned run average and striking out 15 batters in 14 1/3 innings pitched.

“Getting the opportunity to play for the Cubs is a dream I’ve had all my life,” said Patton, a middle reliever just weeks before Spring Training began.

Now, the flamethrowing redhead will get his wish.

And it came hand-in-hand with plenty of white-knuckle situations during the past two weeks as Patton was the final player added to the Chicago roster. Matter of fact, the slot Patton earned in the rotation came down to the final day of spring, when he was battling for the opening with relievers Chad Gaudin, Jeff Samardzija and Angel Guzman.

Patton, a 24-year-old who graduated from Kentridge High in 2002, enjoyed the finest spring of the bunch. Though because he had never pitched above Single A, there were reservations about how well he’d handle the pressure of facing major leaguers on an everyday basis. Chicago manager Lou Piniella let it be known a week before the Cubs’ final spring game at the new Yankee Stadium that Patton’s fate — along with that of the other three relievers vying for the two available slots — would be the club’s final decision.

All four pitched in the final game. And though Patton was shaky, allowing two walks and a hit, he escaped unscathed. In the process, he opened up enough eyes to grab a spot in the bullpen.

“The young man throws strikes, and obviously he’s not intimidated,” Chicago manager Lou Piniella told

Leading up to the final game of spring, Patton’s parents — Debbie and Al — didn’t sleep a wink the night before.

“We were a nervous wreck,” Debbie said Sunday afternoon. “There was a lot of praying. It has been a dream of his since he was a little kid. He has worked really hard for this.”

Al agrees.

“I am so proud of my boy, I can’t hardly stand it,” he said. “I was awake every 2 1/2 hours because of the expectations of the decision.”

Patton and Guzman filled the two remaining slots in the bullpen while Gaudin was released and Samardzija, one of the organization’s top prospects, was optioned to Triple-A Iowa.

One of the key ingredients as to how Patton managed to secure a spot in the bullpen came down to how the Cubs acquired him in the first place. Patton spent the previous five seasons in the Colorado organization, first as a starting pitcher before being shifted to relief three years ago. In December, however, Colorado left Patton exposed to the Rule 5 Draft. Any player who has been with an organization for five years or more and has never been slotted on the parent club’s 25-man roster automatically becomes eligible for the draft. In December, Patton was chosen with the seventh overall pick by the Cincinnati Reds in the Rule 5 Draft. Just hours later, he was dealt to the Cubs for cash.

As part of the governing rules of the Rule 5 Draft, any player who is chosen must stick on the club’s 25-man roster or be offered back to his original organization, in Patton’s case the Rockies.

Essentially, the Cubs either had to keep Patton or risk losing him to Colorado, where he likely would have been sent back to the minors.

“This is what you devote all your time to and what I’ve wanted since I was a little kid,” Patton said. “This is just the beginning.”

Being picked up by Piniella and the Cubs was just a bonus, Patton admitted.

“I grew up a die-hard Mariners fan in Seattle and Lou was the manager. Now he’s the manager in Chicago,” he said.

Patton was originally selected in the 12th round by Colorado in the June 2004 draft out of Green River Community College.

Green River coach Matt Acker was not surprised with how well Patton handled himself during Spring Training.

“I saw the potential,” Acker said. “Talk about a kid who deserves it. He wanted a break and he got a break. He’s not going to get rattled. He enjoys it. He has so much left in the tank because he really didn’t pitch a lot growing up. He’s learned so much. There really isn’t anything they can throw at him that he hasn’t already been through because, mentally, he’s seen it all before.”

Patton is the third player in Green River history to make it to the major leagues. Pitchers Doug Sisk, who pitched for three different organizations between 1982-1991, and David Riske, currently with Milwaukee, are the other two. Patton also is the first player in Kentridge High history to advance to the majors.

“This is what I’ve always wanted,” he said. “This is what I love to do, no matter where I’m at.”