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Wednesday, March 12
Updated: March 14, 8:17 PM ET
Twins finalize $2 million deal with Rogers

Associated Press

MINNEAPOLIS -- Kenny Rogers and the Minnesota Twins finalized a $2 million, one-year contract Thursday.

The deal, which contains about $500,000 in performance incentives, was contingent on Rogers passing a physical. He did that Thursday morning, general manager Terry Ryan said.

The Twins are a tremendous fit for Kenny Rogers (and vice versa). Rogers is a control pitcher who relies on movement and his changeup to get batters out. The Twins play great infield defense, which is a perfect scenario for a pitcher who induces a lot of ground balls. And center fielder Torii Hunter will run down his share of a pitcher's mistakes.

The Twins will miss injured starter Eric Milton, but Rogers had a strong 2002 season with the Rangers (13-8, 3.85 ERA). So it's strange that it took him this long to sign with another team as a free agent. I became friends with Rogers in 1998 and '99, when we both pitched for the A's, and I've stayed in contact with him. He told me that the Cardinals and Red Sox were on his short list of teams to play for, but nothing worked out until now.

A question arises related to his late signing date: Is there enough time left in spring training for Rogers to be ready to start the season? I think so.

I'm not sure how much Rogers has been throwing, but any good professional ballplayer is working out anyway before reporting to camp. I went through a shortened spring training in 1995 after the strike was settled, and it didn't affect me much. In fact, most players will tell you that spring training goes too long.

Plus, because Rogers isn't a power pitcher, I don't believe he'll need as much time to prepare. This is true for guys like Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine. Spring training is more important for power pitchers who need to build up their velocity. A control specialist who relies on location will still experience arm stiffness, but it takes longer for the power guy to get ready.

Rogers arrived Wednesday night at the Twins' spring training complex in Fort Myers, Fla., and was throwing pitches in the bullpen by Thursday morning.

"I'm glad to be in a uniform,'' the 38-year-old left-hander said. "I'm just ready to get to work. I'd like to have a little more time than I've got, so I'll just squeeze as much as I can into these next couple of weeks.''

To make room, Minnesota put left-hander Eric Milton on the 60-day disabled list.

Milton, an All-Star in 2001 who's been a key piece of the Twins' rotation since 1998, had arthroscopic surgery on his left knee in Utah last week that revealed torn and loose cartilage and inflammation that resembled arthritis. Milton is expected to miss four to six months.

"As soon as Miltie came back from Salt Lake was when we set this thing in motion," Ryan said. "Once we knew he was going to be out at least four months and we knew Rogers was still available, it was an easy decision."

The Twins were confident Johan Santana could fill Milton's spot, as he did last season when Milton, Brad Radke and Joe Mays missed a total of more than six months to injuries. But Santana, 8-6 with a 2.99 ERA last year, is more valuable in the bullpen as a long or short left-handed reliever.

"We know Santana can start," manager Ron Gardenhire said after Wednesday's 3-1 loss to Cleveland in Winter Haven. "He's going to be a starter in this league. But this strengthens this baseball team.

"You take every advantage you can when you have a good shot."

Gardenhire was quite pleased by the move.

"If you're going to fill a hole," Gardenhire said, "this is a full plug. He's a proven, veteran left-handed starter in this league.'"

Rogers went 13-8 with a 3.85 ERA for Texas last season and has a record of 145-106 over his 15-year career with a 4.20 ERA. He pitched a perfect game in 1994 for the Rangers and was an All-Star in 1995.

Rogers began his career with Texas in 1989, also pitching for the Yankees, Oakland and the Mets before rejoining the Rangers as a free agent before the 2000 season.

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