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DODGER REPORT

Gagne Doesn't Need to Change

July 05, 2002|Mike DiGiovanna

ST. LOUIS — After Eric Gagne jumped ahead of Arizona's Quinton McCracken, 0-and-2, in the eighth inning Wednesday night, the Dodger closer pumped two 97-mph fastballs at McCracken, who barely fouled them off.

"I had a lot of defensive swings up there," McCracken said. "I'm just looking and trying to react. The guy's throwing 100 mph, so there's not much room for error."

Gagne's next pitch was a changeup, which McCracken reached out and poked into the right-field corner for a two-run triple that scored the tying and go-ahead runs in the Diamondbacks' 5-3 victory and tagged Gagne with his second blown save in 32 opportunities.

Gagne's changeup has been devastating, baffling numerous hitters who think it's a split-fingered fastball. But after McCracken failed to catch up with Gagne's fastball Wednesday, the Diamondbacks were surprised Gagne didn't stick with the heat.

"It makes you wonder why he went with a changeup in that situation," Arizona reliever Matt Mantei said.

Some Dodgers were apparently thinking the same thing.

"Someone popped off on the team bus [Wednesday night], wondering why he threw a changeup," Dodger catcher Paul Lo Duca said, declining to name the Dodger. "My argument was that no one said anything the last 30 times [Gagne used the changeup successfully]."

Gagne's third pitch is a cross between a slider and curve, but he hasn't had to use it much. Though there is a danger of falling into more predictable patterns when you rely heavily on only two pitches, Lo Duca doesn't believe Gagne needs to expand his repertoire.

"There's no need to use his slider/curve any more than he has been," Lo Duca said. "He just didn't throw [the changeup] where he wanted to Wednesday night, and [McCracken] hit a bloop triple."

*

Manager Jim Tracy will shuffle his rotation during the All-Star break so that his two hottest pitchers, Hideo Nomo and Odalis Perez, can open a four-game series against Arizona in Dodger Stadium next Thursday and Friday.

Andy Ashby will start Saturday, Kazuhisa Ishii will pitch Sunday, and Omar Daal will open a two-game series against St. Louis on July 15.

In opening the second half with Nomo, who has won his last seven decisions dating to May 12, including an eight-inning shutout of Arizona on Monday night, Tracy is essentially tabbing the 33-year-old right-hander as his ace, or at least a co-ace with Perez.

"Do we turn our heads and not look at what Nomo did the other night?" Tracy said. "He's starting to send the message, more and more, that if it's a big-game situation, he's interested."

*

Though a Dodger trainer has advised against it, right fielder Shawn Green is planning to participate in Monday's home run derby as part of the All-Star festivities in Milwaukee. Green sat out games Sunday and Monday because of a jammed left thumb but has played in the last three games, homering Wednesday.

"As of now, I'm going to do it unless the thumb acts up," Green said. "If it's better in the next couple of days, I should be fine. If it's not, I won't push it."

TONIGHT

DODGERS'

ODALIS PEREZ

(9-4, 2.56 ERA)

vs.

CARDINALS'

MATT MORRIS

(10-5, 3.27 ERA)

Busch Stadium, St. Louis, 5 PDT

TV--Fox Sports Net 2. Radio--KXTA (1150), KWKW (1330).

Update--Both starters were selected to the National League All-Star team. Perez, the Dodger left-hander, had his five-game win streak snapped Sunday, when he gave up five runs and seven hits in seven innings of a 5-1 loss to the Angels. Morris, the Cardinal right-hander, has a 2-0 record and 3.79 ERA against the Dodgers.

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