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DODGERS REPORT

Gagne May Face Back Surgery

July 07, 2006|Michael Becker | Times Staff Writer

Eric Gagne could be facing back surgery that would end his season and, with free agency pending, possibly his career-long affiliation with the Dodgers.

An MRI showed as many as two herniated disks in the relief pitcher's lower back, which could be corrected by surgery. Gagne remained at St. Vincent Medical Center on Thursday. Dr. Robert Watkins, spine surgeon and co-director of the Los Angeles Spine Surgery Institute at St. Vincent, is expected to make a decision on surgery as early as today.

The closer with a streak of 84 saves in 2003-04 pitched in only 16 games over the last two seasons because of elbow injuries.

Gagne awoke in pain Tuesday, shortly before he was to fly to Atlanta to meet with a physical therapist about his elbow. He was admitted Wednesday to St. Vincent, where he was given a nerve block and epidural, Dodgers trainer Stan Johnston said.

"You can sneeze and do this," Johnston said. "You can bend over tying your shoes and stuff like this can happen."

Manager Grady Little spoke to Gagne in the hospital Thursday morning and said the closer had concern in his voice.

"We have concern now too," Little said. "We hurt because he's not with us, but he hurts more."

Assuming Gagne, 30, undergoes surgery, the club is not expected to exercise the $12-million option for next season. His contract includes a $1-million buyout.

"Anyone who knows Eric and the type of competitor he is knows this has been a frustrating time," said Scott Boras, Gagne's agent. "We can't predict the time frame. We do know there will be a time Eric Gagne will be back on a major league mound."

Asked if he could see Gagne returning to the Dodgers under a new contract, Boras said, "We're just trying to see what Eric's immediate condition is. Those issues we'll talk about when we resolve the immediate issues."

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Second baseman Jeff Kent sat out his third consecutive game because of a mild abdominal strain, which he aggravated Monday against the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Hours before the game, the fifth spot in the lineup was left blank, leaving the possibility that Kent would return. But after hitting in the batting cage before the game, Kent was told by Johnston not to play.

The trainer said he'd like Kent to rest the injury another "day or two."

When asked if he'd be willing to sit out until after the All-Star break, Kent said, "That would mean I would have to watch another three or four ballgames and I don't know if I'd be able to make that because I hate watching baseball."

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Times staff writer Jerry Crowe contributed to this report.

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