Ageless Rogers leads young staff

Rogers to be Tigers' oldest Opening Day starter

Who knows what Wild Bill Donovan would've thought of Kenny Rogers?

Donovan broke into the Majors at age 21 and won 25 games in Brooklyn a few years later, prior to pitching 10 years for the Tigers. His career should've wrapped up in 1912. Three years into retirement, however, Donovan became a manager of the New York Yankees, and he made some spot appearances on the mound.

The Yankees and Donovan parted ways after 1916, and Donovan became a coach. He was on Hughie Jennings' staff for a 1918 Tigers club that finished seventh in the eight-team American League. With back-to-back doubleheaders on the season's final weekend, Jennings went to Donovan again, this time to start the season's final game. Not only did he pitch well, but he earned his 186th and final career win.

Donovan was six weeks shy of his 42nd birthday when he pitched that game, making him the oldest Tigers pitcher. Rogers won't top that mark when he starts Opening Day, or any other game this season, but he'll be the oldest Tigers pitcher since Donovan. He's also the oldest Tigers Opening Day pitcher ever.

Age is about the only comparison between the two. In contrast to Donovan's spot appearances, Rogers has been a workhorse into his 40s. If not for his midsummer suspension, he would've recorded his third 200-inning season in four years. Instead, he settled for a 14-win season, the seventh-lowest ERA in the American League and an All-Star appearance. It was a season strong enough to earn him a two-year, $16 million contract from the Tigers in their search for a steady veteran starter.

"He brings a lot to the party," Leyland said.

He brings a 6-1 record and 2.01 ERA against the AL Central from last year, for starters. Half of those wins came against the Royals. He scattered a run on five hits in seven innings against them in Arlington last May 26, then did the same 10 days later in Kansas City.

Beating the 106-loss Royals last year shouldn't be all that big of a deal except for how much the Tigers struggled to do it. Detroit's 10-9 record versus Kansas City was its best against any team in the division, but it wasn't as a good as it should've been. They split a four-game series at Comerica Park after the All-Star break, then suffered an embarrassing four-game sweep at Kauffman Stadium as part of the Tigers' September swoon. The Royals' nine wins against the Tigers was three more than they had against any other team and the closest they had to a winning record against an AL opponent.

The Tigers had better luck playing the Royals to open the season. They handed Kansas City an 11-2 beating on Opening Day last year at Comerica Park, highlighted by Dmitri Young's three home runs. Jeremy Bonderman became the youngest Opening Day starter for the Tigers since Josh Billings in 1928 and the youngest in any league since Dwight Gooden in 1986.

This year, age is a big deal again.

"Every day that I get to go out there and pitch, I feel very fortunate I'm still here," Rogers said, "still able to compete with the talent around me in this room, much less in the league. Those are things that keep pushing you, keep that competitive spirit alive for me."

Pitching matchup
DET: LHP Kenny Rogers
• 14-8, 3.46 ERA in 2005
• 3-0, 2.14 in 2005 vs. KC
• 18-13, 3.70 lifetime vs. KC

  Tigers probable lineup
1.CFCurtis Granderson
2.2BPlacido Polanco
3.CIvan Rodriguez
4.RFMagglio Ordonez
5.DHDmitri Young
6.LFCraig Monroe
7.SSCarlos Guillen
8.1BChris Shelton
9.3BBrandon Inge

KC: RHP Scott Elarton
• 11-9, 4.61 ERA in 2005
• 2-0, 3.99 ERA in 2005 vs. DET
• 3-3, 4.83 ERA lifetime vs. DET

On the Internet
 Gameday Audio
•  Gameday
•  Official game notes

On television
• DET: FSN Detroit

On radio
• DET: WXYT-AM 1270
• KC: WHB-AM 810

On deck
• Tuesday: Off
• Wednesday: Tigers at Royals, 2:10 p.m. ET
• Thursday: Tigers at Rangers, 8:05 p.m. ET

Jason Beck is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.