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Rosario continues to work on defense

CLEVELAND -- Rockies catcher Wilin Rosario smiled when revisiting an old subject -- his defense.

It was a much-discussed topic during Spring Training, even through his previous two-plus years in the Majors. Now, though, it isn't on the front burner. In this case, the less said, the better.

It's not perfect. He has a stronger presence with the pitching staff, but being from the Dominican Republic and often speaking in his second language means he still has to work on clarity. Blocking low pitches and general receiving still need work, and he acknowledges that, but there hasn't been a notion that he is dragging down the pitching staff.

"I said at the end of the season, and last year and in Spring Training, I said that when we're going to talk about my defense, we're going to talk about something positive," Rosario said. "You see? This is the first time in a long time I've been asked about it.

"I'm still growing. In some situations, there were pitches that I called. But that happened, then I learned from it. Sometimes you have to see something, fail, stand up, and learn. But I'm working hard and I'm getting closer to where I want to be."

At the beginning of the season, fingers were pointed his way when lefty Jorge De La Rosa struggled. However, pitching coach Jim Wright, manager Walt Weiss and De La Rosa himself quickly spotted that De La Rosa was overthrowing, fixed the problem and now De La Rosa is unbeaten in his last seven starts. Rosario and De La Rosa, both of whom speak Spanish as their main language, are working in harmony.

Rosario's season illustrates why his defense must continue to develop. Injuries to his left wrist and left hand, and a weight loss from having missed two weeks with the flu, have affected his hitting. A .277 career hitter with 52 homers in 254 Major league games coming into the season, he entered Friday night's game against the Indians hitting .228 with five home runs and 22 RBIs in 34 games.

Because of the bumps and bruises of the position, offensive consistency is often not possible. But the good catchers fight through the pain and contribute defensively.

Rosario said his strength is returning after losing 10 pounds because of the illness. He's weighing 220-222, which is below his past playing weight of 228. He would like to play at his current weight, which could increase his defensive flexibility. If he can do that and maintain his power, then all the better.

"Now people are asking me about my offense -- what happened and what I need to do to get it back," Rosario said. "I know I can hit. Sooner or later I'm going to be good."

Rockies catching coach Rene Lachemann agrees that Rosario had taken his defense out of the crisis range. Lachemann likes Rosario's willingness to take charge and take responsibility for his weaknesses.

"He's always wanted to catch and catch well," Lachemann said. "He takes pride in doing the job. His preparation has impressed me the most."

Then again, Rosario had better be relentless in improving his defense. Lachemann noted that his reputation as a struggling defender will live even if he bridges the gap and becomes a strong one.

"Once you get a reputation like the first year [22 passed balls in 2012, his first full season], it's extremely difficult to change that," Lachemann said. "I was with a guy in Boston who was one of the best defensive guys at third base. But when he came up in the organization, it was said he was a very poor defensive third baseman. It took years of playing outstanding defense and he finally ended up getting a Gold Glove."

Thomas Harding is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb.
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