Not all veterans of Major League Baseball enjoy success in Asia, but 2009 has been very, very good to Roberto Petagine of the Korea Baseball Organization’s LG Twins. The 38-year-old Venezuelan is fourth in the KBO with a .352 batting average, and Petagine’s 19 homers and 60 RBIs are both good enough to rank second in the league behind another import, the Heroes’ Cliff Brumbaugh.
Petagine has seen a lot in his 20 seasons of pro baseball after signing with the Houston Astros as a 19-year-old free agent in 1990. He bounced from the Astros to San Diego, the New York Mets and Cincinnati between 1994 and 1998 before moving to Japan’s Yakult Swallows in 1999. Petagine spent six seasons in Japan with the Swallows and the Yomiuri Giants, batting .317 with 223 homers and winning an MVP trophy and two home run titles along the way. After returning to America for parts of two MLB seasons with Boston and Seattle and a Mexican League stint with the Mexico City Diablos Rojos, Petagine came to Korea in May of last season.
Some KBO teams have tried employing a sort of “Ted Williams shift” on Petagine this year, moving infielders to the right side of the diamond, but he often thwarts that strategy by hitting balls into the seats (where fielders can’t reach them). Other teams have gone the more conventional route and walked Petagine to avoid pitching to him altogether. Given his numbers, it’s hard to blame them.