Rogers insists again he didn't cheat in World Series

Updated: February 18, 2007, 11:42 AM ET
Associated Press

LAKELAND, Fla. -- Kenny Rogers' sensational postseason was smudged as soon as TV cameras caught that brownish substance on his pitching hand.

Kenny Rogers
AP/Duane BurlesonTigers pitcher Kenny Rogers, left, pictured with Nate Robertson during Saturday's spring workout, believes his reputation is intact.

But almost four months later, the Detroit Tigers' pitcher laughs at anyone who thinks he threw 23 straight scoreless innings last October because he was cheating.

"I can take a tool belt full of whatever and give it to some of the best pitchers in the game, and they're not going to do the things I did in the postseason," Rogers said Saturday in an interview with The Associated Press. "I did nothing different than any other pitcher.

"I don't feel bad about anything. I'm proud of my achievements and I don't have any regrets."

The left-hander helped the Tigers reach the World Series for the first time since 1984, but that's where he wound up in the middle of another ruckus -- Smudgegate.

Cameras showed a brown substance on his left hand in the first inning of Game 2 of the World Series, and St. Louis manager Tony La Russa brought it to the umpires' attention. Rogers' hand was clean when he came out for the second inning, and he went on to pitch shutout ball in Detroit's only victory of the Series.

Rogers insisted then that mud, resin, spit and dirt was what everyone saw at the base of his left thumb -- not pine tar or anything else illegal.

La Russa didn't buy the explanation.

"Didn't look like dirt," he said.

On Friday, baseball's playing rules committee approved changes that would eject and suspend players for intentionally defacing or discoloring a ball. Umpires have the discretion to issue only a warning if they determine a pitcher didn't intend to alter the characteristics of a pitch. Previously, such a pitch was called a ball, a warning was issued and the violation was announced.

"Baseball can say all it wants, but today's baseballs are as hard as rocks. Players are going to make an adjustment to that so that they can compete."
-- Kenny Rogers

"I don't think that will change anything one bit," Rogers said. "We all want grip on the ball, and we're all going to do what it takes to do that in every climate. I think hitters want pitchers to have a grip on that baseball, too, because guys throw pretty hard and when you do lose one, it's usually up and in."

The 42-year-old Rogers said pitchers have been forced to make changes because they're throwing baseballs that are not made the way they used to be.

"They're totally different than they were 10 years ago, or even five years ago," he insisted. "Baseball can say all it wants, but today's baseballs are as hard as rocks. Players are going to make an adjustment to that so that they can compete."

After his first World Series start against St. Louis, Rogers was saved for a potential Game 6 -- but the Cardinals clinched in five games.

All year long off the field, Rogers was popular in the clubhouse, liked by fans and got along well with reporters.

But just when people stopped talking about him pushing two cameramen in 2005 -- a videotaped tirade that led to a suspension while he was with Texas -- Rogers was at the center of another media circus.

"It was just something to talk about," he said. "Did it have any validity? Not a whole lot. I accomplished what I did with hard work, consistency and intensity."

Rogers said he enjoyed his season in Detroit more than any other year of his career, on the field with teammates and coaches, and off the field, with fans and media.

He hopes to pitch for the Tigers for another year or two after his current contract expires.

"There's no place I'd rather play than here. I've let them know that, but it's out of my court," Rogers said while standing in front of his locker before his second workout of spring training. "I don't want to envision being anywhere else and I hope I don't have to be a free agent again."

When Rogers joined the Tigers, manager Jim Leyland downplayed his role as a tutor for younger pitchers because he wanted the focus to be on his performance.

"But I also said, 'If you're a younger pitcher and you're not watching this guy and you're not picking things up and talking to him, you're foolish,' " Leyland recalled.

Justin Verlander credits Rogers for helping him earn AL Rookie of the Year honors last season.

"It really accelerated the learning process for me being able to pick his brain," he said.

Rogers said Verlander, Joel Zumaya and the other young pitchers on the staff helped him, too.

"They challenge me to stay up with them," he said. "It pushes you because you want to hold them at bay as long as you can."

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press