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Kenny Rogers will tell you that he has always been more gamble
than Gambler. A 1982 39th-round pick of the Rangers, the affable
lefty is convinced the only reason Texas didn't cut him loose
early in his career was that he often brought his coaches
strawberries from his father's farm. In fact, at the end of the
1984 season Rogers was so discouraged by his performance with
Class A Burlington, Iowa, that he quit the game and returned
home to Dover, Fla., to work for his dad. Strawberry fields
forever, Rogers vowed. At least, that is, until the next spring,
when he returned to the Rangers organization.

"I didn't know if I wanted to stay," says Rogers. "I played one
year of high school as an outfielder, and the Rangers wanted to
make me a pitcher. Well, I didn't know how to pitch from the
windup or the stretch. And that first year in the minors, I had
to call home for money every week because my paycheck was $400 a
month--and so was my rent. Bonus money? My bonus was a trip to

Rogers has since developed into one of the game's premier
lefthanders; since the '93 All-Star break, only two lefties have
won more games. He was a career-best 17-7 last year, enough to
persuade the Yankees last December to ante up $20 million for
the free agent's services for the next four years. That should
cover the rent. That should also put New York back in contention
for the postseason, where it fell to Seattle in five games in
the first round of the AL playoffs last fall.

Rogers's signing was only one of several changes in a typically
turbulent off-season in the Bronx. After an inspired postseason
in which he hit .417 with six RBIs, Yankees captain and first
baseman Don Mattingly is hanging 'em up, at least temporarily.
Popular manager Buck Showalter asked for a lucrative long-term
contract and was reminded by mercurial owner George Steinbrenner
just where the Buck stops. Showalter resigned and was replaced
by former Cardinals skipper Joe Torre.

Despite the losses of Mattingly, pitcher Jack McDowell, catcher
Mike Stanley and virtuosic utilityman Randy Velarde, the Yankees
have upgraded their talent. In a five-man swap in December, they
acquired Seattle first baseman Tino Martinez, a much-needed
power threat. And the pickup of leftfielder Tim Raines (777
lifetime steals) from the White Sox, also in December, gave New
York the genuine leadoff hitter it lacked last season, though
one AL scout cautions, "Raines doesn't like to take chances
anymore." Martinez and Raines will join an already solid lineup
that includes third baseman Wade Boggs and outfielders Paul
O'Neill, Ruben Sierra and budding superstar Bernie Williams, who
was simply blazing in the postseason (.429, two doubles, two
home runs and five RBIs).

The Yankees' starting rotation is potentially the best in the
league. The resigning of David Cone (three years, $19.5 million)
eases Rogers's transition to New York: Uncomfortable with the
idea of being the team's ace, Rogers says he would not have
joined the Yanks had Cone not returned. Should 1994 Cy Young
runner-up Jimmy Key continue his swift recovery from rotator
cuff surgery, Rogers could be the team's No. 3 starter by
season's end. Throw in yet another lefty, second-year man Andy
Pettitte, and New York has three southpaws capable of winning 15
games apiece. For righthanded starters, Torre can choose among
Scott Kamieniecki, who went 7-6 last year; Melido Perez, who
made only 12 starts in '95 because of shoulder problems; and
Dwight Gooden, the former Met who is returning from a one-year
suspension for his second drug-policy violation.

The biggest question is the Yankees' bullpen. Jeff Nelson, who
was acquired in the Martinez deal, will improve an erratic
middle relief corps. But the Yanks need closer John Wetteland to
rebound from last year's end-of-season struggles.

How New York fares, of course, will not be determined entirely
on the field. Showalter was a master at shielding his players
from the team's owner, the press and assorted other Gotham
nuisances. Steinbrenner has already hinted he will be more
hands-on than ever, which bodes ominously for Torre.
Nonetheless, Torre is unfazed. "I knew what I was getting into
when I accepted this job," he says.

Rogers will be under even greater pressure. "People always talk
about the distractions and how a small-town guy like me won't be
able to handle them," he says. "I love it when people say that.
I know what a tough road it was for me just to get to the
majors, let alone win here. Having gone through that, I think I
can handle a new city. Even New York."




1995 Team Statistics (AL rank in parentheses)

Batting Average .276 (6)
Home Runs 122 (12)
ERA 4.56 (7)
Fielding Pct. .986 (2)

Consider Renting

Last fall the Yankees hired Joe Torre as their manager--the 21st
managerial change since George Steinbrenner's purchase of the
club in 1973. That's the most such changes by any major league
club during that time; second most is 17 by the Cubs, followed
by California (15), Texas (14) and San Diego (13). Listed below
are the longest and shortest continuous tenures (in terms of
games) by Yankees managers since 1973.

Longest tenures Years Games

Buck Showalter 1992-95 582
Billy Martin I 1976-78 471
Lou Piniella I 1986-87 324
Stump Merrill 1990-91 275
Bill Virdon 1974-75 266

Shortest tenures Years Games

Bob Lemon II 1981-82 39
Clyde King 1982 62
Billy Martin V 1988 68
Gene Michael I 1981 82
Gene Michael II 1982 86

COLOR PHOTO: CHUCK SOLOMON COVER PHOTO [Varies by region] Pitcher Money David Cone leads the Yankees' high-priced quest for a championship COLOR PHOTO: CHUCK SOLOMON Sophomore southpaw Pettitte strengthens a potentially dominant rotation. [Andy Pettitte]


After being called up from Triple A Columbus, Ohio, last July,
righthander Mariano Rivera showed flashes of excellence,
finishing the season with a 5-3 record in 19 appearances as a
middle reliever and spot starter. But it was during the playoff
series against Seattle that the wiry 26-year-old Panamanian made
his boldest statement. Yankees closer John Wetteland gave up a
grand slam to Edgar Martinez in New York's devastating Game 4
loss, and the next night manager Buck Showalter summoned Rivera
to face slugging Mariners third baseman Mike Blowers in the
eighth inning, with the bases loaded and the score tied 4-4.
Blowers had driven home 27 runs in 14 bases-loaded situations in
'95. Rivera struck him out on three pitches. "Rivera threw the
ball harder in that at bat than Wetteland did all year," one NL
Central scout said. Should Wetteland falter this season, Rivera,
with his 94 mph overhand fastball, could take over as New York's
full-time closer.



LF Tim Raines[**] .285, 12, 67, 13
3B Wade Boggs .324, 5, 63, 1
1B Tino Martinez[**] .293, 31, 111, 0
DH Ruben Sierra .263, 19, 86, 5
RF Paul O'Neill .300, 22, 96, 1
CF Bernie Williams .307, 18, 82, 8
2B Pat Kelly .237, 4, 29, 8
C Joe Girardi[**] .262, 8, 55, 3
SS Derek Jeter (R) .317 BA in AAA


IF Mariano Duncan[**] .287, 6, 36, 1
C Jim Leyritz .269, 7, 37, 1


RH David Cone 18-8, 3.57
LH Kenny Rogers[**] 17-7, 3.38
LH Andy Pettitte 12-9, 4.17
RH Scott Kamieniecki 7-6, 4.01
RH Dwight Gooden[**] 3-4, 6.31*


RH John Wetteland 31, 2.93
RH Jeff Nelson[**] 2, 2.17
RH Mariano Rivera 0, 5.51
RH Bob Wickman 1, 4.05

[**]New acquisition
(R) Rookie
*1994 statistics