© 2006 MLB Advanced Media, L.P. All rights reserved.
10/05/06 2:00 PM ET
Rogers tries to silence October critics
Game 3 offers veteran chance to bolster postseason reputation
By Anthony Castrovince / MLB.com
NEW YORK -- Kenny Rogers' reputation preceded him on his way to Detroit.
The word was that he fades out in the second half and he flounders in the postseason.
Rogers has defied the first of those expectations with the Tigers. On Friday, in Game 3 of the American League Division Series at Comerica Park, he'll see what he can do about defying the other.
The latter reputation, which includes an 0-3 record and 8.85 ERA in nine postseason appearances, began when Rogers was on the other side, playing in pinstripes.
In 1996, as the Yankees made their run to a World Series crown, Rogers posted a 9.00 ERA in two ALDS appearances, a 12.00 ERA in one ALCS start and a 22.50 ERA in his one World Series start.
Looking back at that experience, Rogers takes only the positives with him.
"For me as a player," he said, "I think still being here, still pitching at this level and at this point in my career, going through what I did with New York made me better in a lot of ways. It made me a lot stronger, too."
Rogers has stayed strong this season, even when it looked as though it might be a season on the brink.
Around the time of the All-Star break, he had a stretch of inefficient outings that brought out those old naysayings about his endurance.
"When we signed Kenny Rogers, a lot of people said, 'Get ready for the second half, [because] he never pitches good and this and that," manager Jim Leyland said. "There was a stretch where he was trying to throw the ball too hard to prove to everybody that he was strong and had enough strength to go into the second half. He got out of whack and out of sync a little bit."
What frustrated Rogers most about the period was that he felt nothing short of great.
"Usually, that's a good thing for most people," he said. "But I'm used to feeling off most days, so I make my adjustments. So I had to get back to pitching a little bit and not trying to do more than I was capable of doing."
The results speak for themselves. Rogers went 3-1 with a 1.64 ERA in August and 3-1 with a 2.79 ERA in September.
"We got ourselves a pretty good pitcher," Leyland said, "and he's been fantastic."
But Rogers' regular season ended on a somewhat bitter note. Called into unanticipated relief, he gave up the go-ahead runs to the Royals on Sunday, sending the Tigers on the path to Yankee Stadium.
The Yankees are not the best of draws for the 41-year-old Rogers. Their roster has a combined .365 average against him in his career.
"Their lineup is just going to be what the PlayStation 3 comes out with," Rogers joked. "That's the lineup that's going to be there. Everybody's hitting .350 with 40 homers and whatever. It will rival any lineup that's ever been out there. I know they are great. I know they have fantastic players."
That's their reputation. And Rogers certainly knows his.
But when the time comes for playoff baseball to return to Detroit for the first tine in 19 years, he hopes those reputations can be skirted.
Rogers will face Randy Johnson, the Yankees' 43-year-old left-hander. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Friday's matchup will be the first postseason game in which both starters are in their 40s.
"I'm going to go out there and challenge them and do what I do," he said, "and try to make quality pitches to get through the game and give us a chance to win."