Rogers' leadership key to Game 3

Rogers' leadership key to Game 3

OAKLAND -- The Tigers signed Kenny Rogers last offseason for one reason and one reason only -- wins.

"We got him to pitch and perform," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. "We got him because we knew he was 59 games over .500 in the big leagues. We didn't get him to babysit anybody; we didn't get him to tell anybody what the big leagues was all about."

Sure, the 17 wins that Rogers racked up this season have been great, but it's more than just Rogers' stellar record that has made a difference for the Tigers this season. As Rogers prepares to extend his club's ALCS lead from 2-0 in Friday's pivotal Game 3 of the American League Championship Series against the A's, it's his leadership atop an otherwise young rotation that is garnering nearly as much attention as his strong numbers this season.

The veteran pitcher has spent much of his 18-year career moving around the league, being a part of six different teams in the process. Rogers has certainly learned much over his career, and with his latest stop in Detroit, he's had the chance to share that experience with some young pitchers on a club that hadn't seen much success over the last two decades.

It's the impact that Rogers has been able to make on the Tigers' young pitching staff that has made him as much of an asset as his multitude of wins. In fact, it's the leadership and advice he's given to those young pitchers that many of his current teammates attribute the change in the club this season.

"That's what we have been missing in the past," third baseman Brandon Inge said of Rogers. "We've had a lot of talent, but a lot of those guys not really knowing what to do with their talent. Now you get Kenny Rogers in the mix, and he really helped out with leading them in the right way and bringing them along as pitchers."

For as much as Rogers did in helping Detroit take its next step this year, it was the hope of the club that he could turn that into some postseason success -- something that was lacking in his long Major League career.

That success certainly came in Rogers' Game 3 start in last week's ALDS against the Yankees. Rogers held New York scoreless over 7 2/3 innings, allowing just five hits while striking out eight. It was a dominating performance in a big situation, as the Tigers used the performance to take a 2-1 advantage in the series.

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"For as much as he's done for us, he deserved a game like that," Inge said.

Overall, it was a day full of emotions for Rogers as he faced the Yankees. Knowing the lack of success he had in previous postseasons and his history of poor outings against New York, Rogers was determined to use everything he had to get through.

"Knowing you're facing an opponent like that, that is that potent in every aspect of the game, I knew that if I was lax in anything -- effort, concentration, whatever it was -- that I would pay for it dearly," Rogers said on Thursday. "So I was just making sure that whatever I did, I used every ounce of my being out there for that game, because anything less would have been something that benefited them, and I did not want to give them an inch."

"I think it was a little out of character for him to be that emotional, but I could certainly understand it," Leyland added. "I was concerned about it, because sometimes too much emotion works for you and sometimes it works against you. But in his case, the other day, it worked for him."

One person who knows the type of competitive spirit that Rogers has always possessed is A's manager Ken Macha. The A's skipper saw it firsthand when he was a coach during Rogers' two seasons with the A's in 1998 and '99, and Macha knows that the veteran's steely drive will be on full display on Friday.


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"He's pitched this long and had this much success because he knows what he's doing out there," Macha said. "He can induce a double play, he's very good at holding runners, he can pick you off and he's a tremendous fielder. He's got a tremendous amount of respect coming from me. He's pitched well against our clubs all the time.

If there is one club that Rogers knows well from his long career, it's the A's. The crafty left-hander is 21-7 with a 4.33 ERA in 59 appearances against the club. The hope for the Tigers is that Rogers can now keep the momentum from his last start going and use it to add to his success against the A's.

But while strong emotions may have helped Rogers in his last playoff start, there is a feeling that it won't be as much of a factor in this start against the A's.

"I'm not minimalizing [their lineup], but they're different hitters," Rogers said of the change in approach. "They're just as good in a lot of ways, but I don't know how much I have to duplicate from the last start to this one. I'm just going to see what I have to work with and try to make the best of it."

Kelly Thesier is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.