|Double-duty closing provides more proof Gagne is healthy|
|Written by Admin|
|Wednesday, 25 July 2007 15:49|
It was a chance for the Texas Rangers closer to prove to everyone else what he felt: that he is fully healthy after being limited to only 15 1-3 innings the past two seasons because of back and elbow problems.
``I knew it personally, but proved to everybody else, and that's a big thing,'' Gagne said Wednesday, a day after saving both games in a doubleheader for the first time in his career. ``I felt great. I knew I'd be able to do it.''
Gagne, who also pitched Monday night in a non-save situation, declared himself available to pitch again Wednesday night in the series finale against the Seattle Mariners. Manager Ron Washington said that wouldn't happen.
``He can't convince me today,'' Washington said. ``He went well beyond the call of duty yesterday. As far as I'm concerned, he's done his job.''
Washington also told reporters before Tuesday's doubleheader that he wouldn't use Gagne in both games after also pitching in the opener of the four-game series. But that was before the closer told him he was ready, if needed, to pitch in both games.
After pitching the ninth inning of the 2-1 victory in the doubleheader opener, Gagne got up in the bullpen just before the Rangers scored to go-ahead run in the bottom of the eighth inning of the nightcap. The burly right-hander got the last three outs in a 4-3 victory for his second save of the day and 16th in 17 chances this season.
``I don't think I would have been able to do it the last two years,'' Gagne said. ``Now, I'm healthy and able to bounce back. I haven't been overused. They have really used me the right way here. ... I'm healthy now because they've used me the right way.''
That was part of the reason Washington didn't plan to use the 31-year-old Gagne for a fourth time in three days, even if he needed a save.
``He's always proved to me that he can get it done,'' Washington said. ``After what he did the last three games, I think that should settle some of that. People will always have their skepticism about him, but it doesn't matter to me. All he does is get outs.''
When Gagne converted a major-league record 84 consecutive saves from 2002-04 and won the 2003 NL Cy Young for the Los Angeles Dodgers, it wasn't uncommon for him to pitch four days in a row. There was one stretch of six saves in seven days and other times with five saves in six days.
That was before two elbow operations and a back surgery that limited him to 14 appearances in 2005 and only two last year. Gagne became a free agent when the Dodgers declined to pick up his $12 million option for 2007.
While only the Rangers seriously considered Gagne last winter, other teams needing bullpen help are inquiring about him now before the non-waiver trade deadline Tuesday. And they were already asking before Gagne pitched three games in a 24-hour span with no problems.
Gagne has repeatedly said he wants to stay in Texas. The Rangers could offer a new contract if they don't trade him.
The Rangers made Gagne take it slow, putting him on the disabled list at the start of the season to give him more time to get ready. His only setback wasn't related to his three past operations, a 15-day stint on the disabled list in late April because of a sore right hip.