La Russa on Rogers: 'I don't believe it was dirt'

ST. LOUIS -- Tony La Russa kept talking about Kenny Rogers,
his words from the interview room booming all around Busch Stadium,
courtesy of the PA system. One by one, the Detroit Tigers stopped
their workout to listen.

"I don't believe it was dirt," they heard the St. Louis
manager say. "Didn't look like dirt."

A lot of baseball fans weren't buying Rogers' explanation,
either. So instead of looking to Game 3 of the World Series, the
focus Monday stayed squarely on Game 2. Specifically, it focused on
what Rogers had at the base of his left thumb -- and whether it was
there before.

"We know it's all over the place right now," umpires'
supervisor Steve Palermo said.

Some photographs from Rogers' start in the AL Championship
Series against Oakland showed what appeared to be the same kind of
smudge on his pitching hand that caught everyone's attention Sunday

Prompted by La Russa, the umpires asked him to clean off his
left hand, and Rogers pitched eight shutout innings in a 3-1
victory that evened the World Series at one game each.

Rogers, who's gone from playoff farce to postseason force this
October, insisted it was an innocent mistake.

"I rub up the balls between the innings and before the game all
of the time," Rogers said Monday. "I rub up the bullpen balls I
pitch with with mud, resin, spit. I do it all the time. They rub
the ball up, too, with mud before the games.

"The game balls, they're dirty. Usually, when I get done,
there's not much on my hand, but I guess a little bit more than
normal. I wiped it off and proceeded to pitch seven pretty good
innings," he said. "Mud, resin, sweat. It's always there. I try
not to go crazy with it, but it's not making my pitches do anything

Later, it was La Russa's turn to have his say. His off-day news
conference was piped over the Busch Stadium public-address system,
so his thoughts echoed from every corner of the empty ballpark.

The Tigers had just come onto the field for practice, and they
were instantly surrounded by La Russa's voice giving a lengthy

The first question skipped right past Game 3 -- it's Tuesday
night, with reigning NL Cy Young winner Chris Carpenter starting
against Nate Robertson.

Instead, it was about Rogers, who has pitched 23 scoreless
innings this postseason -- after going 0-3 with an 8.85 ERA in
previous postseasons.

La Russa's answer went on for five minutes.

He said he brought the smudge to the umpires' attention, but did
not demand they search Rogers. They didn't. La Russa also said the
Cardinals were aware Rogers had a similar spot earlier in the

"I said, 'I don't like this stuff, let's get it fixed.' If it
gets fixed let's play the game. It got fixed, in my opinion," he

"If he didn't get rid of it, I would have challenged it. But I
do think it's a little bit part of the game at times and don't go
crazy," he said.

La Russa also said he talked to the Cardinals before they worked
out Monday.

"I briefly explained where I was coming from and I said,
'Anybody felt like I should do different, then I disappointed you.'
... And they didn't raise their hand and say, 'Hey, I disagree,'
they just didn't say anything," he said. "But it's very possible
there were guys that disagreed. It's not the way we want to win."

La Russa also was adamant that his longtime friendship with
Tigers manager Jim Leyland did not affect how he handled the

"It had nothing to do with Leyland," he said.

Palermo said he talked with plate umpire Alfonzo Marquez about
how to best settle the flap, advising that a quick word with Rogers
would work. That satisfied La Russa.

"Tony did things in a good and professional manner to resolve
the issue," Palermo said.

Umpires can inspect a pitcher on their own if they believe
something is wrong. A manager can ask an umpire to check, too.

In 2002, the Cleveland Indians suspected Rogers was scuffing
balls and asked the plate umpire to search for anything illegal.
Nothing was found.

Pitchers occasionally will put substances on their hands to help
grip the ball in cold weather. Tigers reliever Todd Jones once
wrote a newspaper column admitting he'd used pine tar -- which is
illegal -- when he pitched at Colorado.

"I'm saying in my particular case, in situations like that, I
have in the past done that," he said Monday. "Guys are not
scuffing and guys are not using Vaseline. That's a vast difference
than a guy who can't feel anything and is using something to get a

This episode has become perhaps the most-discussed Series smudge since Game
5 in 1969, when Mets manager Gil Hodges brought umpire Lou DiMuro a
ball with shoe polish to persuade him that Cleon Jones had been hit
by a pitch from Baltimore's Dave McNally.

Asked about the flap, Tigers manager Jim Leyland brushed it

"I'm not going to chew yesterday's breakfast and I'm not going
to comment on it," he said.

Baseball's vice president of umpiring, Mike Port, said Randy
Marsh's crew took a "pro-active" stance to diffuse the dirty
issue. Rogers is scheduled to pitch in Game 6, if the Series
returns to Comerica Park.

"Certainly things carry forth and create a certain vigilance,"
Port said.

Said Palermo: "Obviously, it's going to be a thing that
everyone talks about. And we'll be well aware of it if there is a
next time."