10/21/06 7:45 PM ET
Kenny Rogers pregame interview
Tigers pitcher feels past failures makes World Series more rewarding
By / MLB.com
KENNY ROGERS: I told people before they overstate the benefits I give them, in Justin's case there's not many people that came around this game with that kind of stuff. And he's solid in pretty much every aspect. The more experience he gets, he's going to get better and better. But I talk to pretty much all of them. Sometimes it's about things that may mean something, but other times it may just be to distract them from the stress or the part that's hard to deal with for them. There's multiple different things, but basically because I've been through as much as most people and failed as much, sometimes I feel like I have a way of shortening those periods of time just because I have experience with them.
Going through the playoffs this year
watching you pitch, and it appears that you've
become more aggressive, more ferocious
emotionally. Did you make a decision going
into those starts, I'm going to be sort of a
different character on this thing or did you just
find yourself out there working with that?
KENNY ROGERS:I think for the most part it wasn't a game plan going into that first start, but it was because of the opponent, with the Yankees. If they wouldn't have had that type of success in the past with me, I may not have tried to make an adjustment. But in my whole career that's what I've done. If I failed at something I've tried to change it in whatever ways I can that I feel would be more beneficial. Once you get in the flow of the game, you never really know what type of stuff you're going to have or the ability to make certain pitches. But the adrenaline level was there, and I just, for whatever reasons I used it, instead of trying to suppress it and control it. I just used it to help me. And I think I benefit from it, without a doubt. But I was able to do that. Sometimes overthrowing for me isn't beneficial, so I take a big chance, I guess, trying to pitch that way, mentally, but physically it's much more demanding. It's just something I felt like I was capable of doing and I needed to do. I didn't try to do it against Oakland. I didn't have the same fastball or nobody's ever described my stuff as ferocious in the last ten years, but I tried to be more of a pitcher, just because of the team I was facing. Oakland, I've had success by pitching the way I know how to pitch, but I still tried to use the adrenaline and the emotion. And I think I benefitted, without a doubt.
End of the '02 season you were out
on the market and I think it took almost until
Spring Training to go to Minnesota, were you
prepared to walk away from the game at that
point? If somebody told you you would still be
a successful pitcher in '06, would you still have
gone along with that?
KENNY ROGERS:At that point in time my mindset was that I probably wasn't going to play anymore. With a week left in Spring Training, I think it was, or eight days, I think it was, just fortunate that Terry Ryan gave me the call. I was still trying to get ready for that small hole. When he called, he was honest and up front. I was more grateful that he was honest and up front with me, and that's pretty much why I went. The next day I was there, and had a week of Spring Training and started pitching. There was a good portion of time where I felt I wasn't going to give in and I wasn't going to play. As disappointing as that might have been, if Terry doesn't give me the call, I probably would not be pitching, for the last four or five years. But things happen for a reason, I believe that. We're part of it, to a point, with the Tigers, here. No matter how difficult it was to go through that period I benefitted in a lot of ways.
What do you think you'd be doing?
KENNY ROGERS:If I wasn't playing for that period of time I really don't know, but I'm sure I wouldn't be trying to get back into the game. But I would have been staying with my family and enjoying those years that I've missed, without a doubt. That's first and foremost on my list, whenever I do leave the game.
Who has the advantage when a
pitcher has never faced another lineup?
Anthony Reyes has not faced anybody in
today's starting lineup. Does it go to the hitters
KENNY ROGERS:I think the pitcher has a pretty good advantage in that respect. One of the worst things we have as pitchers, there's so much knowledge of you out there with the media and the exposure, everybody has video and have you mapped out to how you try to pitch. And Reyes hasn't pitched against us, if at all. But the benefit is they haven't seen him live and the hitters haven't faced him and they don't know the release point, I guess you could say. There are a lot of nuances that you can't really script out from somebody watching you from the stands and trying to see what you're trying to do. I think for myself, I love facing people that haven't faced me before, no matter if they have a lot of scouting reports or not. It's still different when you get out there. I think he has an added advantage. Anybody that thinks it isn't a benefit, I don't think they've been through these type of scenarios. Over my career I feel like it's been a benefit for me.
Can you describe what it was like
coming off the mound in the New York and the
Oakland games with the reaction you got from
the crowd and did that surprise you at all? Is
that something that can go on?
KENNY ROGERS:I don't think it was a surprise. I think these fans here not only are tremendous baseball fans, but sports fans in general. But I think us as a team we found out pretty quickly that they got behind us real quick in the season, because they understood what we were trying to do and the type of team we were. We started out pretty well. I wasn't surprised for the way it went, the way the fans treated me, because they've done that for the whole year. They've been behind me and supported me, just like my teammates. But it has added special importance, because of the situation, and what it means, basically, for everyone here, myself, the city, here. You could tell the emotions for everyone, they want a winner here so bad they can taste it and they've waited so long. I guess it's been soothing in a lot of ways for all of us, myself and them, too, because of the wait and the perseverance to wait for a winner or wait for a team to come along and inspire you to continue down this road.
In '68 when the Cardinals and Tigers
met in the World Series, the Tigers had two
pitchers pitch on two days' rest. I was
wondering as a pitcher of this era how
remarkable you think that is, and could you
ever fathom doing that or a guy from this
generation doing that?
KENNY ROGERS:I'm sure it would be very difficult, but I would have no doubts that everybody in my locker room, every pitcher out there, if the skipper asks you if you can throw the ball, it doesn't matter if you threw nine the day before, there's not an answer that would be no, it has to be yes every time. This is what it's about. If you're needed, you're there. Back in the day when those guys did it, probably more the norm, it's hard to compare, but I'm sure it would be drastically different physically then than it is now, but no less important. It's difficult to pitch without any kind of rest, but it's a little different game nowadays with all the aspects that have changed. Probably be a little bit harder in some respects, but I really can't compare those eras.
You mentioned a minute ago that
you've been through as much as most people,
failed as much as most people. All that
experience in going through that, has that
allowed you to appreciate and maybe
understand this moment and this month more
than you ever could have?
KENNY ROGERS:Without a doubt. Failure is part of this game. You can't escape it. If you try, it's going to find you, more than your share sometimes. And I've had mine. Going through that, without a doubt, makes all of this more rewarding in a lot of ways, for one of the main points just to be able to say you got through it, you got through the hard part and you're still here, you're still competitive and still able to be successful at this point. Sometimes I probably doubted myself, too, at times. You know there's more there and you can't find the ways to bring it out. And it's just a very satisfying feeling for any athlete to endure whatever is thrown his way and to try to make whatever necessary adjustments to go out there and be successful. Would this have happened if I was in a different place? I don't know, but I am extremely fortunate that I'm here in Detroit with all the different things that have happened, with the way the city is, the coaches. I'm just fortunate in every aspect to play with this type of ballclub. And I've benefitted more than they have from me, without a doubt.
You've made reference to it a couple
of times, it was soothing for you and the team.
In that respect do you see yourself as a perfect
match for this city? And how is this city
unique, compared to the other markets you've
KENNY ROGERS:I think as athletes you want to be successful as much as possible, but you have to have people around you that put you in the right situations to be successful, in general. Whether I'm a perfect match or not, I don't know. But I'm comfortable where I'm at and I understand what my role is here. I think they understand what I'm willing to do. For me and my mindset and hopefully for them, also, I hope they understand I'll do whatever they ask of me. I feel the same way of them. If I asked for something they'd understand my meaning for asking for anything, because I really don't ask for a whole lot, I'm trying to be low maintenance. Just being comfortable in the atmosphere you're in, the town, the players, just every ingredient here has benefitted me, and I kind of knew that going in, I knew it would be a better fit than some places that I could have went to and for me I was just lucky enough that I had a team that wanted to bring me in, that I felt that I would be a contributing factor.
Yesterday Jim explained the rotation
by saying he wanted to make sure that you got
two starts at Comerica Park, Game 2 and Game
6, how important is that that you have a chance
maybe to start twice here?
KENNY ROGERS:I enjoy pitching here without a doubt. The park is beneficial to any pitcher. I was telling Skip before, I don't think he looked at my World Series numbers. I'm batting a thousand in the World Series (laughter.) I was disappointed in that respect, but I think he saw that everybody was hitting a thousand off me, too (laughter.) Like I said, I'll start whenever he asks me to, it doesn't matter, whatever situation Skip feels is the best for all of us. I think he's trying to put us in the best case scenario for us to go out and be successful. Once you know that as a player, the skipper is going to try to do the best he can in that respect, it's just less of a burden on you, I guess, then you can focus on what you're capable of doing, what you need to do. I trust him as much as any manager, probably more than any manager I've ever played for.
How would you describe yourself as
KENNY ROGERS:Weird. I don't know. It's hard to describe yourself in that respect. I know what I like in a teammate. If I'm playing with someone, I like guys that will do whatever it takes for their team to be successful and sacrifice themselves first and the team is always ahead of them. And that means anything that they need, you do. We've got a lot of guys willing to do that here, and that's what makes us a good team. We've got guys -- Brandon Inge doesn't care if he runs through the metal rails and breaks both legs. He's playing for the love of the game. We have a lot of guys like that that are willing to sacrifice themselves physically and all that to have the success of this team to be all we aspired for it to be.
KENNY ROGERS:I think for any team. You do not want to be a distraction for other players to reach their potential for other players, and sometimes distractions happen that could take away from their potential. The last thing I ever want to do on my team is to do that. If I ever was a distraction, all they've got to do is tell me once, and I'll be gone.
Courtesy of FastScripts by ASAP Sports. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.