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Rogers insists again he didn't cheat in World Series

2/18/2007 - MLB Kenny Rogers Detroit Tigers + more

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

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."