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Gagne Says Secret Is Hard Work, Not Steroids

Baseball: Surprising Dodger closer doesn't want his success to be tainted by recent revelations.

June 03, 2002|JASON REID | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Becoming the first Dodger to address speculation about his own possible steroid use, first-year closer Eric Gagne said Sunday his surprising success this season "has nothing to do with any steroids."

Gagne acknowledged he added muscle during the winter and throws harder than he did last season, attributing his physical improvement to an intense off-season workout program. The converted starter is frustrated that allegations of rampant steroid use have cast a shadow over the major leagues and possibly tainted the accomplishments of some players, saying he did things the old-fashioned way.

"I know what I did, I know how hard I worked in the off-season, and it didn't have anything to do with [steroids]," Gagne said. "Now, because of all this stuff, people are going to look at players who hit 50 home runs, or guys who throw hard, and say, 'Oh, he's using steroids.' That's ridiculous.

"As soon as you do good they're going to say, 'OK, steroids,' and that's just wrong. Like I said, I'm not worried because I know what I did and didn't do."

Players have come under the microscope recently in the wake of comments made by retired stars Ken Caminiti and Jose Canseco. In a Sports Illustrated story, Caminiti claimed that 50% of big leaguers use steroids, and Canseco put the number at 85% in a radio interview.

Gagne said those figures have nothing to do with him.

"When you look at me, I'm bigger now [than in 2001] because I worked out with a guy in Montreal, a hockey player, all winter," he said. "My legs are much bigger, but I've always been a pretty big guy.

"It's really not a big deal; it's not like I gained 40 pounds or something. I gained what, maybe 10 pounds. I lost some weight and I gained some muscle. I just worked out hard."

Pitchers have not come under much scrutiny because steroids are commonly associated with batters adding muscle to increase power. However, although there have not been studies on the effects of steroid use on baseball players, sports physicians said the drugs are believed to help pitchers increase velocity.

Gagne reported to spring training heavier than last season and having increased the velocity on his fastball to consistently 97 mph, from 94 mph, prompting some to wonder about the secrets of his success.

He has emerged as one of the majors' top closers after struggling in the rotation for parts of two seasons, converting 20 of 21 save opportunities with a 1.53 earned-run average. Gagne, who does not have a decision in 27 games, has 39 strikeouts in 29 1/3 innings and has limited opponents to a .155 batting average.

Again, Gagne wants to set the record straight.

"I threw 94 to 95 [mph] last year, so it's not a great difference," he said. "Two miles an hour harder. That's a lot?

"There are guys who have worked really hard their whole careers. There are guys who have always had power and throw hard."

The Major League Baseball Players Assn. historically has opposed drug testing, but it might be forced to change its stance on steroids because of public opinion. Gagne fears that the reputations of some players have been forever damaged.

"The bottom line is, nobody is going to care about how hard you work because of this," he said. "They're just going to say, 'Oh, he's on 'roids,' because he's throwing harder and hitting home runs. That's it."

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