Gagne to start on DL to get more work

Updated: March 31, 2007, 4:38 PM ET
Associated Press

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Eric Gagne will start the season on the disabled list for the Texas Rangers, a move the team is making to give the closer more time to come back from elbow and back operations.

The Rangers said Gagne hasn't had any health setbacks. The 2003 NL Cy Young Award winner has pitched only 15 1-3 innings over the past two seasons.

"I feel pretty good, but I think this is going to help the team," Gagne said after throwing 15 pitches in a minor league game Thursday. "We are here to have a successful season and make the playoffs."

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This is the third straight season since his dominating run as the Los Angeles Dodgers' closer that Gagne will be on the disabled list before pitching.

Gagne had elbow surgery in June 2005, then another operation last April to remove a nerve from his pitching elbow. He had surgery last July to repair a herniated disk in his lower back.

Akinori Otsuka, who converted 32 of 36 saves last season, will handle the closing duties until Gagne returns.

The move will be retroactive to Wednesday, meaning Gagne could rejoin the Rangers on April 13 for the start of a series in Seattle. Gagne will pitch for Double-A Frisco and Triple-A Oklahoma until then, and will make back-to-back appearances before joining the Rangers.

"It's the right thing to do, not only for him, but for us," pitching coach Mark Connor said.

In his third and last "A" game appearance Tuesday, Gagne allowed four runs and five hits in one inning against San Diego. That was the same game, played in gusty winds, that No. 1 starter Kevin Millwood allowed 10 runs in 4 2-3 innings of a 24-7 Padres' victory.

For spring training, Gagne had a 15.00 ERA (five earned runs in three innings) with six strikeouts and six walks. He allowed a home run on the first pitch he threw.

Gagne had 152 saves from 2002-04, including all 55 chances in 2003, when he had a 1.20 ERA and won the Cy Young. He converted a major-league record 84 consecutive saves from August 2002 to July 2004.

The hard-throwing right-hander started 2005 on the DL, and last year he went to the DL without pitching a game less than a week after starting the season on the Dodgers roster.

After Los Angeles didn't exercise Gagne's $12 million option for 2007, the Rangers gave him a $6 million, one-year deal with the chance to make $5 more in performance bonuses.

Texas placed LHP John Rheinecker and INF Joaquin Arias on the DL. OF Jason Botts was optioned to Triple-A Oklahoma, and INF Ramon Vazquez was reassigned to minor league camp.

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press