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Rain puts off Rottino debut behind plate

Vinny Rottino was in the lineup at catcher but never got the chance to crouch behind the plate Monday night for the Buffalo Bisons because the Herd's series finale against the Rochester Red Wings was rained out in Coca-Cola Field.

So the 32-year-old's season debut there will have to wait. But it will happen. Rottino has been a versatile, productive player his entire career and is off to a quick start this year in Buffalo.

Rottino is the only Bison to play in all 24 games so far and he's hit safely in 19 of them while serving as Buffalo's every-day left fielder. He's second on the team in batting (.315), runs (13), hits (29, two off the International League lead) and RBIs (13).

Rottino will take an 11-game hitting streak into the series opener against visiting Syracuse tonight at 6 (TWC 13, 1520 AM), and he has made a quick impression with a new organization.

"It's important to have a good start but there's been years I haven't and it's important you learn from those," said Rottino, a Wisconsin native whose career started in the Milwaukee organization and resulted in his first big-league callup to the Brewers in 2006. "You learn not to panic and to stay with your approach."

Rottino signed as a free agent in November after batting .304 in New Orleans and getting a nine-game call-up to the Florida Marlins. In fact, he's been a .300 hitter for three straight years. And versatile? Last year, Rottino was in the outfield for 68 games for New Orleans, was at first base for 11 and caught 39.

"Because of the number of games I've caught, it's not like it's an experiment or anything," said Rottino, who caught for Italy in the 2009 World Baseball Classic. "I feel comfortable catching. I love doing it. It's probably my favorite position. I had never caught before but when I didn't get drafted I decided I had to scrap any way I could to get [at-bats]. So playing multiple positions has kind of been my role my entire career."

Rottino has settled into the No. 2 hole in the Buffalo lineup behind red-hot Bobby Scales, who leads all of minor-league baseball with a .413 batting average. The pair combined for six hits and four runs in Sunday's 8-2 win over Rochester.

"If I'm choosing sides, I want Vinny Rottino on my team because he's going to do what needs to be done to help his team win," said Scales. "Playing with guys like that is just unbelievable."

"Bobby is probably the hottest hitter in baseball period right now," Rottino said of Scales. "It's pretty impressive for him to be getting on base over half the time. That's unheard of. Hitting is contagious. He starts it and everyone realizes pressure is on the pitcher and their defense."

The Marlins wanted Rottino to re-sign but he felt the Mets gave him a better chance at a call-up at some point this season. Winning in Buffalo is a nice bonus.

"We're playing some really good baseball and it's a lot of fun in here," Rottino said. "And it's not selfish baseball either. You get a sense everyone wants to do whatever they can to help this team win."

The teams waited about 75 minutes before Monday's game was called. The makeup date will come during Rochester's other visit, turning the Aug. 25-28 series into a five-gamer.

The Bisons will push their pitching rotation back a day, meaning Garrett Olson, Monday's scheduled starter, will go tonight. Top Mets prospects Matt Harvey and Jeurys Familia will thus go Wednesday and Thursday.

e-mail: mharrington@buffnews.com