There are at least 20-million reasons why Kenny Rogers signed with the New York Yankees, but he prefers to talk about one.
"It's a nice feeling to play for a contender," said Rogers, who signed a four-year, $20-million contract. "I never had that chance in Texas. If I wanted to finish second or third all the time I would have stayed. But I wasn't happy, and this is something I wanted to do.
"My main goal is to be playing in the last baseball game of the year and be on the winning team."
The Yankees are counting on Rogers to be the left-handed ace in their potentially overpowering rotation. The potential would seem to be there: He was 17-7 last season with a 3.38 ERA, fifth best in the league, and has 44 wins over the past three seasons.
But there is a question of how Rogers will do in New York. He grew up in rural Hillsborough County helping his family farm strawberries and has never been a fan of the big city. And he has struggled as a visitor in Yankee Stadium, posting a 2-3 record and 6.47 ERA in 14 games.
"I'm comfortable in Yankee Stadium, it's just the last few times I've been in there it's been the first of the year and I haven't been that adjusted to the cold weather," Rogers said. "This year, hopefully I will have some time to get used to it. It's my home ballpark, so I don't foresee any problems. It's a real good park for left-handers. Hopefully, I'll be the next in a long line."
Yankees principal owner George Steinbrenner said he expects Rogers to adapt to the Stadium. "I love this kid," Steinbrenner said. "He's a redneck son of a gun and he could have a great year."
Rogers, 31, says he doesn't mind the pressure. "I have expectations for myself which are probably higher than anybody else could set for me," Rogers said. "If I get those I think everybody will be happy with my performance. I always set goals to where I can reach them. If you can't reach your goals there's no use having them."
_ Correspondent Mike Readling contributed to this report.