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Patterson joins free agent CF class

Patterson joins free agent CF class

BALTIMORE -- Corey Patterson filed for free agency Wednesday, joining a celebrated class of center fielders that also includes Atlanta's Andruw Jones and Minnesota's Torii Hunter. Patterson is the second Oriole to file for free agency since the World Series ended, but all teams will retain exclusive negotiating rights with their free agents until Nov. 2.

Patterson was acquired from the Cubs before the 2006 season in exchange for Minor League prospects Nate Spears and Carlos Perez, and he started more than 200 games in center field for Baltimore over the last two seasons. Patterson stole 82 bases and was caught just 18 times over that span, and he also hit 24 home runs and scored 140 times.

The former first-round pick came to Baltimore after batting .215 in 2005, but he re-established himself offensively and played stellar defense in each of his two seasons as an Oriole. Patterson batted .313 with a .333 on-base percentage after the All-Star break in 2007, but a sprained left ankle caused him to miss virtually all of the season's final month.

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If Baltimore doesn't re-sign Patterson, his replacement would likely come from outside the organization. Tike Redman played well last September and could be evaluated for a bigger role in Spring Training, as could prospects Jeff Fiorentino and Nolan Reimold. Left fielder Jay Payton could also slide over to center, but Baltimore will likely shop for other options.

Backup catcher Paul Bako filed for free agency Tuesday, but the Orioles won't have a big free-agent exodus. Jaret Wright was released and allowed to seek free agency earlier this winter, as were Rob Bell and J.R. House. Baltimore will likely decline an option in Kris Benson's contract, which would also allow the right-hander to become a free agent.

Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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