After Double-A appearances, Gagne ready to close

Updated: April 8, 2007, 11:18 PM ET
Associated Press

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Eric Gagne felt better than expected Sunday after pitching on consecutive days for the first time in nearly two years and said he's ready to be the Texas Rangers' closer.

Eric Gagne
Gagne

"I thought I'd be a little bit more sore," Gagne said after consecutive starts in minor league games. "I feel pretty good. My back's great, my elbow's good."

After being limited to 15 1/3 innings the past two seasons because of two operations on his elbow and one on his back, the Rangers put the former NL Cy Young Award winner on the disabled list to start the season in order to give him more time to get ready.

Gagne is eligible to come off the DL on Friday. The Rangers expect him to travel with the team Thursday and be activated before the start of their weekend series at Seattle.

One of the big hurdles for Gagne was to pitch on consecutive days, which he did in a pair of games this weekend for Double-A Frisco. He threw 15 pitches to three Arkansas batters on Friday, then 17 pitches against five hitters Saturday, when he gave up a solo home run and took the loss in a 1-0 game.

"He's ready to go," manager Ron Washington said.

Gagne hadn't pitched on consecutive days since May 26-27, 2005, for the Los Angeles Dodgers. The right-hander's only two appearances for the Dodgers last season were four days apart in June.

Washington isn't sure if Gagne will be used immediately in the closer role, or if he will make a couple of appearances in non-save situations when he first returns.

"We're going to discuss that, how to break him in," Washington said. "We'll see how things go. We want him to be right."

But Gagne said he'll be ready to close when he's back on the roster.

"Yeah," Gagne said. "That's why I got an extra two weeks."

Gagne is scheduled to pitch again Tuesday for Frisco, this time likely in a relief role. What he's really looking forward to is Friday night in Seattle.

"I'll be excited just to get back in a major league game. It will be a lot of fun just to be part of that," Gagne said. "When I get in the game and can help, that's what I really want to do. I can't wait."

Gagne became a free agent when the Dodgers declined to pick up his $12 million option. The Rangers signed him to a one-year deal for $6 million with a chance to earn about $5 million in performance bonuses.

Before his injury-riddled seasons, Gagne had 152 saves from 2002-04 for the Dodgers. He converted a record 84 straight save chances, including all 55 in 2003 when he had a 1.20 ERA and won his Cy Young Award.


Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press

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