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Gagne still has no regrets

He takes his latest hit, losing Brewers closer's job, and says he has no doubts about leaving Dodgers and his other choices.

May 13, 2008|Kevin Baxter | Times Staff Writer

MILWAUKEE -- Eric Gagne isn't one for second-guessing himself.

"I don't really look back," he said, explaining that it comes with the territory when you're a closer.

"No doubt, no negative thinking," he said. "Just be confident."

So despite all that has happened in the last 18 months -- two trips to the disabled list, a trade, being named in the Mitchell Report as a user of human growth hormone and, most recently, pitching himself out of the closer's job in Milwaukee -- Gagne doesn't regret leaving Los Angeles, where the former Dodger won a Cy Young Award and made three All-Star teams.

"I never wish I hadn't left," he said Monday. "I was bred as a Dodger. It was hard to leave, yeah. But you just turn a page. You come [to a point] in a career where, 'Was it the right place for me? Was it the right time for me?'

"When I made the decision, I thought it was the right decision. I still think that."

He made that decision after sitting out all but 15 1/3 innings of the 2005 and 2006 seasons because of elbow and back problems, signing with Texas as a free agent. It followed a three-year span with the Dodgers in which he saved a record 152 games in 158 chances, including 84 in a row.

"Basically the whole point when I went to Texas was just to make me get healthy. Go out there and pitch a full year, try to stay healthy and try to help them get to the playoffs," he said.

As it turned out, after a midseason trade, he wound up helping the Red Sox win a World Series. Then he left once more -- for Milwaukee.

"It's just a different chapter in my baseball career," said Gagne, who spent his first 11 seasons of pro ball in the Dodgers' organization but has gone through three teams and two leagues in the 1 1/2 years since.

Yet he has not come close to matching the success he had in L.A., having already blown a big-league-high five saves in 14 opportunities this season, leading Brewers Manager Ned Yost to move him out of the closer's role last weekend.

"He believes in himself. He believes that he can get the job done," Yost said of Gagne, whom he summoned in the seventh inning of Monday's game with St. Louis, the first time Gagne has entered a game earlier than the eighth inning since April 2002. "He just needs a bit of a break. He needs to get back to doing certain things he does to be successful."

What he does most successfully, Gagne says, is pitch the ninth -- something he hopes to do when the Brewers play host to the Dodgers in a three-game series starting tonight.

"I know how to close. That's the only thing I know how to do," said Gagne, who gave up a run, two hits and a pair of walks in two innings Monday. "Physically, I feel a lot better. I bounce back well. My fastball's jumping pretty good. My changeup's good.

"It's just putting all of it together. And believing in it."

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kevin.baxter@latimes.com

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