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New foreign player for Nexen unfazed by demands of catching

All Headlines 18:04 April 22, 2014

By Yoo Jee-ho

SEOUL, April 22 (Yonhap) -- Catcher is widely considered the toughest position in baseball, but the demands of playing behind the plate haven't fazed Vinny Rottino of the Nexen Heroes.

The new acquisition for the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) has become a personal catcher of sorts for his American teammate, Andy Van Hekken. Before Tuesday's game against the Lotte Giants, Rottino had caught two starts by Van Hekken, and the left-hander hadn't given up an earned run in 13 1/3 innings.

Rottino is the first foreign catcher in the KBO since Angel Pena for the Hanwha Eagles in 2004. When he's not catching, Rottino plays in the outfield. Speaking at Mokdong Stadium, the Heroes' home in Seoul, before Tuesday's game, Rottino insisted that having to play multiple positions doesn't have any impact on his performance.

"There's no adjustment for me (playing catcher)," he said. "I've caught a lot of games in the minor leagues. I feel good behind the plate."

Rottino, 34, played 305 games in the minors in the United States and three in Major League Baseball (MLB). He also played in Japan before arriving in South Korea for this season.

The physical toll that catching can take on players could affect their performance at the plate, but Rottino has actually bounced back from a slow start after he started catching. He entered Tuesday's contest batting a robust .326 in 14 games, after opening the season with a 2-for-16 slide.

Rottino said he has had to get used to "way different" signs in the KBO compared to the U.S. In his previous game with Van Hekken on the mound last Wednesday, a mixup led to a balk. The catcher said it was only a minor hiccup and it won't take him that long to make a full adjustment to signs.

So far, Rottino has only caught Van Hekken. The Heroes' other American pitcher, Brandon Knight, has thrown only to the team's everyday catcher, Heo Do-hwan, and said Tuesday he feels the most comfortable with the South Korean backstop because this is their fourth season together.

As for Rottino, he said he enjoys catching a pitcher who speaks the same language, but he also wouldn't mind teaming up with a South Korean.

"I will do whatever the manager wants me to do and help us win," Rottino said. "I've played all around my entire career. It doesn't bother me."

jeeho@yna.co.kr
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