At Tuesday’s All-Star game in Detroit, Kenny Rogers was grilled by reporters, booed by fans and tagged for a two-run homer. He should be looking forward to a much calmer Thursday night in Oakland—his favorite place to pitch.
The Texas Rangers are hoping their No. 1 starter can get back to helping them make a push in the AL West as he takes the mound for the opener of a four-game series with the Oakland Athletics at McAfee Field.
Texas ended the first half of the season with three straight wins, and is hoping the controversy surrounding their veteran left-hander doesn’t affect the way they start the second half.
By showing up at the Midsummer Classic, Rogers did show the organization he wasn’t intimidated by all of the attention brought on by his well-chronicled run-in with two cameramen.
“I would be lying if I said this was an easy thing to do,” Rogers said after giving up a two-run homer to Andruw Jones in the AL’s 7-5 win. “It was difficult, a lot of stuff was going on, but I came to meet it head on, do things the right way and move on.”
Suspended for 20 games and fined $50,000 for shoving the cameramen last month, Rogers was probably the most talked-about player in baseball the last two weeks.
He kept pitching while the players’ union appealed his penalties, but some thought he shouldn’t attend the All-Star game because it would take attention away from other players and positive stories.
“I didn’t want this to be a distraction and hopefully it hasn’t been,” Rogers said. “I think people that know me know I’m not the kind of guy to take the easy way out.”
He never gave an explanation for his tirade on June 29, and Detroit fans weren’t appeased. They booed Rogers during pregame introductions at Comerica Park and again when he walked off the mound after pitching the seventh inning.
Now, Rogers would like to turn his focus back to baseball. He’s pitched well all season, going 10-4 with a 2.54 ERA. However, he has been especially dominant in Oakland during his career, going 19-1 since 1994. Rogers had won 18 straight decisions in Oakland before a loss last Sept. 16, but rebounded with a 3-2 victory here on May 2.
“I really don’t know when it’s over. Hopefully, in the long run, I’ll be better for it,” Rogers said. “Hopefully, people will realize one little instance in your life doesn’t make you what you are.”
He’ll be facing an Oakland team that opens the second half with a new look. Oakland acquired outfielder Jay Payton and pitchers Joe Kennedy and Jay Witasick on Wednesday in two trades, sending right-handed reliever Chad Bradford to Boston for Payton and shipping popular outfielder Eric Byrnes and cash to Colorado for Kennedy and Witasick.
The A’s had won 13 of 16 games before the break, taking five of six from the league-leading Chicago White Sox along the way. Oakland is just 4 1/2 games behind Minnesota in the AL wild card race—but with an eye to the playoff race and the distant future, general manager Billy Beane shook up his roster again.
“We still believe we have room to get better,” said David Forst, Beane’s top assistant. “Certainly we’ve enjoyed the way we’ve played. As far as chemistry, the winning is what guys enjoy, and we feel like we made our team better.”