He played all or part of thirteen seasons in Major League Baseball between 1985 and 1998, primarily as a middle-relief pitcher. He played for the San Diego Padres (1985), Pittsburgh Pirates (1986-1992), Texas Rangers (1993), California Angels (1994-1995) and Chicago Cubs (1996-1998). He batted right-handed and threw left-handed.
In his career, Patterson posted a 39–40 record with a 4.08 European Research Area and 28 saves in 559 appearances, including a 2.68 strikeout-to-walk ratio (483-to-180), 175 games finished, and 617⅓ innings.
During his career, Patterson was known as the Glove Doctor: many players, even from opposing teams, would ask Patterson to repair their broken gloves. Patterson would spend his time in the bullpen during games repairing and relacing gloves, sometimes incorporating coat hangers, tongue depressers, and extra leather.