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Twins take gamble on Kenny Rogers

Veteran pitcher signs one-year,$2 million contract

Compiled from wire services

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

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

The 38-year-old left-hander arrived Wednesday night at the Twins' spring training complex in Fort Myers, Fla., and was throwing pitches in the bullpen by this morning.

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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."

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Rogers went 13-8 with a 3.84 ERA for Texas last season and has a record of 145-106 over his 15-year career with an ERA of 4.20. 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.

His procurement is the kind of aggressive move by the front office that hasn't been seen since the Twins signed pitcher Jack Morris and designated hitter Chili Davis before the 1991 season. The message wasn't lost on the players.

"Wow, that's impressive for us to get him," outfielder Bobby Kielty said. "It makes you think we're really trying now, boy. Not that we weren't before, but he's big time."

The Twins ought to know. Rogers is 11-7 with a 2.93 earned-run average against them in his career.

"He's on our side now," Gardenhire said.

Rogers, who works an exceptional curveball and changeup off an average fastball, has won at least 16 games five times in his career and went 13-8 with a 3.84 ERA last year for the last-place Texas Rangers.

Rogers' best season occurred in 1995, when he was 17-7 with a 3.38 ERA with the Rangers and pitched in the All-Star Game. His worst seasons came after signing as a free agent with the New York Yankees, when he was criticized as a player who couldn't perform under the pressure. In the postseason, with the Yankees in 1996 and New York Mets in 1999, he is 0-3 with a 9.47 ERA.

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Rogers turned down a two-year, $10.2 million offer from the Rangers at the end of last season, electing to become a free agent, then didn't receive any offers close to that. He recently had been negotiating with several teams on one-year deals in the $1.5 million to $2 million range.

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