Brewers to use closer by committee while Gagne gets 'mental break'
MILWAUKEE -- The Brewers yanked Eric Gagne from the closer's role on Sunday after the reliever called his latest performance embarrassing and said he didn't feel he deserved to pitch the ninth anymore.
Manager Ned Yost said he read Gagne's comments and will use a closer by committee approach while Gagne takes what Yost called a "mental break."
From 1999-2006 with the Dodgers, Eric Gagne was arguably the most dominant closer in baseball. The past two seasons with Texas, Boston and now Milwaukee have been a different story.
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"He's really pushing himself really, really hard and taking it really, really hard," Yost said. "We'll probably just mix and match, I'm not going to do anything crazy."
Gagne, who signed a $10 million, one-year contract with the Brewers days before the Mitchell report on performance-enhancing drugs included his name, said after Milwaukee's 5-3 loss on Saturday that he wanted to keep pushing through, but he didn't deserve to close.
"It's mental; I think it's negative thinking that creeps back in your mind," Gagne said Saturday. "It's a matter of going out there and executing your pitches, not thinking results and I'm thinking results. I'm going out there thinking three outs before I can even get one."
Gagne was gone from the clubhouse immediately after Milwaukee's 5-3 win over St. Louis on Sunday, but Yost said he hopes his reliever works his way back into the role.
It's been a tough series for closers.
Gagne (1-2, 6.89 ERA) has nine saves, but is tied with Cardinals reliever Jason Isringhausen for the major league lead with five blown opportunities. Isringhausen asked out of the closer's role after he blew a save on Friday night and Ryan Franklin earned his third career save after Gagne gave up two runs in the ninth on Saturday.
Yost said anyone in his bullpen may be called on to close, and that he might take it batter-by-batter depending on matchup. Guillermo Mota has pitched well in the eighth inning, going 1-1 with a 2.25 ERA in 14 appearances, but asked what he did wrong when reporters approached him before the game Sunday. He said he's not planning to become the closer.
"I don't expect that, but if there's a chance, if they put me there, then I'll try to do the best I can," said Mota, who has seven career saves. "I'm used to setting up. That's my role for many years. I'm comfortable there, but I used to be in the ninth, too."
Relievers David Riske (21 career saves) and Salomon Torres (30 saves) also have closing experience. Torres got the first two outs of the ninth on Sunday, but left-hander Brian Shouse recorded his fifth career save after allowing an RBI single to Yadier Molina.
Yost said the coaching staff thinks they know why Gagne has struggled recently, but declined to reveal what they've found in Gagne's approach.
"His stuff is not a problem. He's throwing the ball really, really well," Yost said. "He just, right now, has been beat down a little bit and needs to take a step back and regain his confidence and make an adjustment or two. He'll pitch in the seventh and the eighth and if we mix and match, he'll pitch some in the ninth, too, just like everybody will."
General manager Doug Melvin said Gagne's performance will be part of Monday's organization meeting that he's been calling a "monthly review."
"I would still give him the ball in situations," Melvin said. "His stuff is good, but it's tough at that part of the game."
Last season, Gagne, the 2003 NL Cy Young Award winner derailed by injuries, was having a nice year in Texas (16 saves, 2.16 ERA) when he was dealt to Boston near the trade deadline. He was unreliable with the Red Sox, finishing with a 2-2 record and a 6.75 ERA.
His start in Milwaukee hasn't been any better even though he maintains he's healthy. He has a 21.60 ERA in his blown saves and losses, but hasn't allowed a run in 11 other appearances.
"Every time we get a little momentum, I come out there and kill that rally," Gagne said.
Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press
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