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DODGER REPORT

Can Gagne Pay Closing Cost?

April 02, 2002

Manager Jim Tracy insists the Dodgers will attempt to fill their closer role by committee, but converted starter Eric Gagne is expected to pitch in closing situations to start the season, and the club, which opens against San Francisco today at home, is hoping the right-hander steps up and makes the job his own.

"Could he eventually become our closer? I'm not ruling that out," Tracy said. "I'm very hopeful that's what happens, but for the time being, we'll take it slowly."

Gagne, who pitched a scoreless inning at Seattle Sunday, gave up one earned run and eight hits in 19 innings over nine spring-training appearances.

Last Thursday night, Gagne entered an exhibition against Arizona in Las Vegas with a four-run lead. Two Dodger errors helped the Diamondbacks pull to within two runs, putting Gagne in a jam, but he retired the side with no further damage.

"I thought it was nice for him to experience problems in the ninth inning, because that's what the ninth inning is all about," said Dave Wallace, Dodger senior vice president of baseball operations and formerly their pitching coach. "The tying run was at the plate, and you have to get the guy out."

Gagne, who has only 10 career relief appearances, also said the experience was valuable.

"You have to go through some innings like that," he said. "It's not always going to be perfect. You have to go through it and learn from it, and that's what I tried to do."

*

Expectations are always high for Barry Bonds, the only baseball player to win four most-valuable-player awards, but the San Francisco slugger admits to some trepidation when he ponders the consequences of setting the bar in Sergei Bubka territory with his record-setting 73-homer season in 2001.

"I always wait for that one year that's going to be bad," said Bonds, whose previous season high was 49 homers in 2000. "That's why I'm always pushing my body and pushing myself to the fullest. I know it's going to happen one day. I just don't know when. Sometimes I wonder if the people are going to be appreciative then. I'm only human.

"When you do something of that magnitude, you're proud of it, you're happy. I'm proud that I did it in a place where I'm happy doing it. I'm proud that San Francisco could say they had it. But you just want San Francisco to be proud of you as a player, period, regardless of what you do, and appreciate something that came once and may never come again."

Bonds was so worked up about those expectations in early March that he found his hands shaking during a spring-training at-bat.

"I wasn't the same," Bonds said, "because I had never done anything like last year before. I've hit 30 home runs, 40 home runs. I know that's something I can do."

*

With five left-handed pitchers on his roster, Tracy believes he's a little better equipped to handle the power in a division that includes left-handed sluggers such as Bonds, Arizona's Luis Gonzalez and Colorado's Todd Helton and Larry Walker.

Jose Nunez, a Rule 5 draft pick who had never pitched above Class A, was the lone Dodger left-hander entering last season, but Tracy will have two left-handed starters, Odalis Perez and Kazuhisa Ishii, and three left-handed relievers, Jesse Orosco, Terry Mulholland and Omar Daal, to start 2002.

"This gives me an opportunity to situational pitch a couple times in a game," Tracy said. "That's a nice option to have in the National League West."

*

Hiram Bocachica won a job as a utility player and right-handed pinch-hitter with a late surge this spring. In 133 at-bats last season, Bocachica hit .233 with two homers, 11 doubles and nine runs batted in. He had a pinch-hit double Saturday against Cleveland and went 14 for 49 with a homer and six RBIs this spring.

ON DECK

Opponent--San Francisco Giants, three games.

Site--Dodger Stadium.

Today--1 p.m.

TV--Channel 13.

Radio--KXTA (1150), KWKW (1330).

Records--Dodgers 86-76 in 2001, Giants 90-72 in 2001.

2001 record vs. Giants--11-8.

TODAY

DODGERS'

KEVIN BROWN

(10-4, 2.65 ERA in 2001)

vs.

GIANTS'

LIVAN HERNANDEZ

(13-15, 5.24 ERA)

Update--History appears to favor the Dodgers. Brown is 8-1 with a 1.86 ERA in 12 games against the Giants; Hernandez is 4-13 with a 6.03 ERA in April and went 1-4 with a 6.10 ERA against the Dodgers in 2001. Brown is barely six months removed from surgery to repair a torn flexor muscle in his elbow. Giant second baseman Jeff Kent (broken left wrist) is on the disabled list.

Wednesday, 7 p.m.--Hideo Nomo (13-10, 4.50) vs. Russ Ortiz (17-9, 3.29).

Thursday, 7 p.m.--Odalis Perez (7-8, 4.91) vs. Ryan Jensen (1-2, 4.25).

*

Gary Klein and

Mike DiGiovanna

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