Rogers accepts two-year, $6M deal

Updated: January 12, 2004, 11:14 PM ET
Associated Press

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Kenny Rogers is coming back to the Texas Rangers, agreeing Monday to a $6 million, two-year deal. The team also bolstered its bullpen by signing setup man Jeff Nelson to a one-year contract.

The deal for Rogers, who pitched a perfect game thrown for Texas in 1994, is contingent on him passing a physical. The 39-year-old left-hander would get $2.5 million this season and $3.5 million in 2005 for his third stint with the team -- he also pitched for the Rangers 1989-95 and 2000-02.

Nelson signed a $1.5 million, one-year deal Monday after passing his physical.

Rogers' popularity with fans and his experience could make him the team's opening day starter. The rest of Texas' rotation is filled with young players and Chan Ho Park, an expensive free-agent signee last year who proved to be an injury-plagued bust.

Nelson, 37, was part of four World Series championships with the Yankees. He fulfills the need for a right-handed reliever and has 12 years of experience to share with more young pitchers in the bullpen.

"It puts a veteran who has been around this league that has had years and years of success together with our young, growing kids," Texas assistant general manager Grady Fuson said. "That's a big ingredient as this club goes forward."

The Rangers are coming off four straight last-place finishes in the AL West. The last three were with AL MVP Alex Rodriguez at shortstop, where he remains after trade talks with Boston ended last month.

Nelson was 4-2 with a 3.74 ERA in 70 games last season for Seattle and New York, returning to the Yankees in a trade in August. With the Rangers, he could earn an additional $300,000 in performance bonuses.

"This kind of reminds me of the 2003 Marlins that just won the World Series. Nobody thought they would win, and obviously I didn't think they would beat us when I was back in New York last year," Nelson said. "It also reminds me of the 2002 Anaheim Angels. It is a great young team, and you have some good key veterans together."

The Rangers, whose offseason signings already have included 36-year-old outfielders Brian Jordan and Eric Young, expect to finalize Rogers' signing and reintroduce him Tuesday.

Rogers turned down a chance to return to the Rangers last season, then signed with the Minnesota Twins. He went 13-8 with a 4.57 ERA in 33 games.

His career record in Texas is 101-79 with a 4.18 ERA in a club-record 463 games, including 187 starts. He also has played for the Mets, Yankees and Oakland A's.

Nelson and a former Yankees teammate are facing assault and battery charges as a result of a bullpen incident with a Fenway Park groundskeeper during Game 3 of the American League Championship Series. Nelson pleaded not guilty at his arraignment last weekend in Boston, with a pretrial hearing scheduled Feb. 5.

Nelson is hopeful that the situation will be resolved and settled without a trial before Texas pitchers report to training camp Feb. 19 in Surprise, Ariz. He said the case never should have gone as far as it has.

"I don't think at all this is about Jeff Nelson. It's about the Yankees and Red Sox," he said Monday. "I just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. By no means did I want this to happen."

Nelson believes things would have been different had the Red Sox gone to the World Series, or if he wasn't then playing for the Yankees.

"If the Red Sox had beaten us in the ALCS, we would have probably never heard anything about this. If I was with another team, then you would have never heard anything about this," he said. "But since it's the Yankees-Red Sox and they want to continue this rivalry on and off the field, that's what happens."

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press