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DODGERS

Eric Gagne signs minor league contract with Dodgers

Former Cy Young winner was named in Mitchell Report, had arm trouble and has been out of the majors for a year.

February 19, 2010|By Dylan Hernandez

Game Over? Close, but not quite.

Disgraced former icon Eric Gagne, who electrified Dodger Stadium during a three-year stretch in which he saved a record 84 consecutive games, has agreed to a minor league contract with the Dodgers that includes an invitation to major league camp, according to baseball sources who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the deal is not yet official.

Gagne is expected to be part of the group of pitchers and catchers who will report to spring training in Phoenix on Saturday. If the 34-year-old lands on the Dodgers' major league roster -- he will audition for a seventh- or eighth-inning role -- he will earn a base salary of $500,000 and have the chance to make another $500,000 in incentive bonuses.

Gagne is more than a year removed from the major leagues, having spent last season with the Quebec Capitales of the independent Can-Am League as a starting pitcher. He was 6-6 with a 4.65 earned-run average in 17 starts.

Once best-known for his trademark goatee and goggles with the Dodgers, Gagne has become an icon of different sorts since he was identified in the Mitchell Report as a user of performance-enhancing drugs. According to the report, Gagne received multiple shipments of human growth hor- mone in 2004, including one sent directly to the Dodger Stadium clubhouse.

"I'm not denying it," Gagne told The Times in July. "I'm not saying I did. I just can't talk about it.

"It's a touchy subject. It doesn't just involve me."

Gagne obtained HGH through then-Dodgers teammate Paul Lo Duca, according to the report.

The revelations tarnished memories of Gagne's spectacular run as the Dodgers' closer from 2002-04, during which he marched onto the field to Guns N' Roses' "Welcome to the Jungle."

He saved 152 games in that period, including a major league-record 84 in a row from Aug. 26, 2002 to July 5, 2004.

He won the Cy Young Award in 2003, as he converted 55 of 55 save opportunities and posted a 1.20 ERA.

Arm trouble derailed his career. He had elbow surgery in 2005 and again in 2006.

Gagne made stops in Texas, Boston and Milwaukee.

His last season in the majors, with the Brewers, was his worst. He converted only 10 of 17 save opportunities and had a 5.41 ERA, and was forced to set up Salomon Torres, to whom he lost his job as closer.

Gagne will face significant obstacles as he tries to make the Dodgers' roster. Closer Jonathan Broxton, George Sherrill, Hong-Chih Kuo, Ronald Belisario and Ramon Troncoso will head into camp as virtual locks to make the team. Other candidates to be part of what was baseball's best bullpen last season include Jeff Weaver, Cory Wade and Scott Elbert.

Gagne, who recently worked out in front of Dodgers Assistant General Manager Logan White, also had an offer for a minor league deal from the Colorado Rockies.

dylan.hernandez@latimes.com

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