Patterson, Pedroia cross paths again

BOSTON -- If Boston Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein needed a scouting report on utility man Eric Patterson before acquiring him from the Oakland Athletics, he could have simply asked the player whose injury created the need for infield help.

Dustin Pedroia and Patterson go way back.

The two were teammates and roommates while playing for the United States collegiate national team in 2002 and 2003. At the time, they shared similar dreams of breaking into the big leagues -- Pedroia then at Arizona State and Patterson at Georgia Tech.

Now they again find themselves on the same team, this time in the majors, a result of Pedroia sustaining a nondisplaced fracture of the navicular bone of his left foot. Pedroia suffered the injury Friday in San Francisco. The Red Sox acquired the 27-year-old Patterson the next day in exchange for minor league pitcher Fabian Williamson.

So when Patterson made his way into the Red Sox clubhouse for the first time, he naturally sought out Pedroia.

"He hasn't changed a bit," said Patterson, who wasn't in the lineup Tuesday as the Red Sox opened a series against the Tampa Bay Rays at Fenway Park.

"He's always been the same guy. I think he's one of those dudes that if you don't really know him, he can get a bad rap. But he's one of those dudes you love playing with, a great teammate, and obviously a great ballplayer."

Patterson, who took ground balls at second base prior to Tuesday's game, will initially combine with Bill Hall and Angel Sanchez as the Red Sox adjust to life without Pedroia.

Terry Francona plans to use the fleet-footed Patterson at second base, left field and center field. With the A's this season, Patterson played 25 games in left field, seven in center field and five at second base. He was hitting .204 (21-of-103) with four home runs and nine RBIs at the time of the trade.

"We'll try to find a combination that works," Francona said of the large void at second created by Pedroia's injury. "Billy's done a terrific job for us, but saying that, there will be days he'll play the outfield. In fairness to Patterson, we'll give him a couple days and let him get his legs under him."

Although Patterson hasn't played much second base this season, he said that's where he's most comfortable.

"I came up as a second baseman. I haven't played a whole lot there in games this season, but I'd always get work in there during [batting practice], really all over the infield," he said. "Outfieldwise, I'm probably a little more comfortable in center field, but I have experience in both places.

"I don't really have a preference, I just enjoy being in the lineup. I'm just another piece and hopefully I can mesh with this team and help these guys win some games."

Patterson, whose brother, Corey, plays for the Baltimore Orioles and whose father, Don, played in the National Football League, called the last few days a whirlwind. Like others who have been traded during the season, he'll be living out of a hotel near Fenway Park until things become settled. He noted that he has experience with such an abrupt change, as he was traded by the Chicago Cubs to Oakland as part of the Rich Harden deal in July 2008.

Patterson acknowledged that playing a part-time role, as he did with the A's, was a challenge.

"Trying to adjust to a utility role, it was a little tough trying to find a routine to keep you sharp every day," he said. "That was something I wasn't used to and I'm still trying to find out how to get used to it. I try to come to the ballpark every day with the same attitude and try to get my work in and try to get better every day. Whenever I have the opportunity to play, I just try to make the most of it."

As for reuniting with Pedroia, the two hope things turn out better than their two years playing for Team USA.

Their first year as teammates, they played in Italy and lost to Cuba in the final game of the World Collegiate Baseball Tournament. The following year, in the Pan-American Games in the Dominican Republic, they again lost to Cuba.

"We had a lot of guys that are still playing in the big leagues now that were on both of those teams," recalled Patterson, who will wear No. 3 with the Red Sox. "It's always cool to see guys as you're playing and catch up with them."

Mike Reiss covers the Patriots, and occasionally the Red Sox, for ESPNBoston.com. Follow him on Twitter.