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Baseball slugger wants to improve on strong debut season in S. Korea

All Headlines 17:42 March 08, 2018

By Yoo Jee-ho

INCHEON, March 8 (Yonhap) -- By all measures, Roger Bernadina, a versatile outfielder hailing from Curacao, had an impressive first season with the Kia Tigers in South Korea last year.

And he has a simple goal for his second season: to get better.

Bernadina was an integral part of the Tigers' championship run in the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) in 2017. He batted .320 with 27 home runs, 111 RBIs and 32 steals, while leading the KBO with 118 runs scored. He was the only player to rank among the top 10 in both home runs and stolen bases, and one of just four players with at least 100 RBIs and 100 runs scored.

Roger Bernadina, an outfielder for the Kia Tigers baseball club, speaks to Yonhap News Agency at Incheon International Airport after returning from the team's spring training in Okinawa, Japan, on March 8, 2018. (Yonhap)

Then in the Korean Series, the KBO's championship final, Bernadina hit .526 (10-for-19) with a team-high seven RBIs as the Tigers beat the Doosan Bears in five games.

Bernadina, 33, has his own tough act to follow but said Thursday he's ready for the challenge.

"I still feel like I have to improve again because the league got better," Bernadina told Yonhap News Agency at Incheon International Airport, after he and the rest of the Tigers returned from their month-long spring training in Okinawa, Japan. "I feel like I have to be better at everything than last year. I'll keep working hard."

Following the end of the 2017 KBO season, Bernadina was mentioned in a U.S. report as an intriguing name in the offseason market. The 33-year-old has played 548 big league games with four different clubs. He last appeared in the majors in 2014 with the Los Angeles Dodgers.

He put an end to rumors by re-signing with the Tigers at the end of November. And Bernadina said the decision wasn't really a hard one.

"The Tigers have treated me first class since Day 1," he said. "Playing in the majors has always been a dream and I played there for a little bit. I know how that feels. But at the end of the day, I felt really comfortable coming back."

After making US$750,000 in 2017, Bernadina will earn $1.1 million this year.

Along with Bernadina, the Tigers also brought back their two other foreign players: right-handed pitcher Hector Noesi and left-hander Pat Dean. They have kept their championship core intact and Bernadina said the Tigers are primed for a repeat.

"If everyone stays healthy and we do whatever we need to do, we can make things happen," he said. "The most important part is that we stay healthy."

In this file photo from Oct. 30, 2017, Roger Bernadina of the Kia Tigers celebrates his RBI single against the Doosan Bears in the top of the third inning in Game 5 of the Korean Series at Jamsil Stadium in Seoul. (Yonhap)

jeeho@yna.co.kr
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