Ranger lefthander Kenny Rogers's recent scoreless-inning streak was amazing not only because it lasted 39 innings, but also because his new hobby—chess—may have had something to do with it.
"I never thought I could sit still long enough to play chess, but I can," says Rogers, who now plays with fellow Texas pitcher Kevin Gross before and after nearly every game. "I don't go to the mound thinking about where I'm going to move my knight or bishop, but chess makes you think several moves ahead, and now I think three or four pitches ahead."
Even though Rogers's streak ended in the seventh inning against the Twins last Thursday night, he still ran his record to 6-2, with a major-league-leading 1.58 ERA. His streak was the longest in the majors since Orel Hershiser's big-league-record 59-inning scoreless string in 1988. Rogers also fell six innings short of the American League record, set by the White Sox' Doc White in 1904.
A Risk Worth Taking
With his As in contention in the American League West, Oakland general manager Sandy Alderson showed some guts by using the fifth overall pick in last week's amateur draft to take Ariel Prieto, a righthanded pitcher who recently defected from Cuba. While there are questions about Prieto's age and the Athletics' ability to sign him, Alderson believes that Prieto might contribute on the major league level as early as next month.
Several scouts agree. Prieto is a polished pitcher with a fastball that has been clocked in the low 90's and a slider that he consistently throws for strikes. "He's what you hope an 18-year-old will turn out to be," says Alderson.
Prieto says he's 25 years old, but others in baseball, including Alderson, believe he's 28. Also, word is Prieto wants a major league contract that will pay him one more dollar than the $2 million that Japanese pitcher Hideo Nomo received when he signed with the Dodgers last February.
"We don't claim to have complete and accurate information on him, so it's a little gamble," says Alderson. "There were a lot of reasons to take a traditional route and, say, draft a high school kid from Florida. But there were a lot of reasons to roll the dice on this guy. There's a big upside. We'll be judged quickly, and so will the teams who didn't take him."