March 12, 2003
When Eric Milton questionable for the entire 2003 season due to a knee injury, the Twins started to look elsewhere for starting pitching. Enter 38-year-old Kenny Rogers who signed a $2 million deal to pitch for the Twins in 2003.
Rogers was coming off of a very good season with the Rangers. He pitched 210.7 innings at the age of 37, and posted a very good 3.84 ERA pitching primarily in Arlington, a hitter’s park (110 PF in 2002).
In a vacuum, the deal looked like a great move for the Twins. Rogers came relatively cheaply, but there was a good track record there to indicate that he was likely to succeed. Had he not, the Twins weren’t locked in to a big expensive contract.
This, however, was not a vacuum. The Twins had a young left-handed pitcher who was quite unhappy with the deal.
Left-hander Johan Santana, the young pitcher many believe is the most talented of the team’s potential starters, said he felt betrayed when the team acquired the veteran Rogers to fill the job that several days earlier was promised to him.
He’s so angry, he said he is considering asking to be traded.
“We’ll see what my agent has to say,” Santana said. “I want to be part of this team. I love this team — great teammates. But you have to look out for yourself, too. You have to take care of yourself, and if they’re not going to do it, you have to find somewhere else. . . .
“I know they’re looking for a replacement (for injured starter Eric Milton), but to me it looks like I don’t mean nothing to them. . . . I feel screwed.”
Santana had a lengthy meeting Thursday morning with manager Ron Gardenhire and pitching coach Rick Anderson, who explained that signing Rogers strengthens the team’s pitching depth, in particular by giving the team the flexibility in the bullpen that Santana provides there.
“I told them I was disappointed, and I told them every time (in the past) I was quiet,” he said. “Not today. Today I talk.”
-Gordon Wittenmyer, Pioneer Press 3/14/2003
Aaron Gleeman, who had been beating the drum for Santana to be a part of the starting rotation for some time, tried to look on the bright side of the deal.
I’d still rather see Santana in the rotation for 180 innings, but I figure 200 innings of Rogers and 120 innings of Johan is probably better than 180 innings of Johan and 140 innings of Jose Cabrera, Juan Rincon, Kevin Frederick and the other bums the Twins were talking about for their last bullpen spot(s).
It shook out just about the way Gleeman said, with Rogers throwing 195 innings in 2003 and Santana at 158.3. Santana’s innings.
Rogers went 13-8 with a 4.57 ERA in 2003. He signed with the Rangers again in 2004. A 99 ERA+ told the story on Rogers: about league average. On the 2003 Twins, that was enough to make him one of the more reliable starters. The best, however, was Santana.
The veteran Rogers became expendable party due to Santana’s success as a starter. He was finally installed in the rotation in July of 2003, and it was Santana’s 8-2 record with a 3.22 ERA from July 11 on that played a large part to help the Twins to win their second consecutive AL Central Title