|Gagne glad to give up saves for chance at championship|
|Written by Admin|
|Wednesday, 01 August 2007 14:24|
``That was one of the easiest decisions I ever had to make,'' Gagne said before Wednesday's game against Baltimore. ``Winning is everything in baseball. That's our passion.''
His willingness to waive a no-trade clause was made easier because he went from the Rangers, who were 15 1/2 games behind and in the AL West cellar, to the Red Sox, who began play Wednesday seven games ahead in the AL East, with baseball's best record.
``That's pretty cool,'' Gagne said. ``Texas was fun. They're great guys over there. It was a pretty disappointing season, because we started really rough. It's good to be here and know that every game means something.''
Boston added Gagne to baseball's best bullpen by sending left-hander Kason Gabbard and minor league outfielders David Murphy and Engel Beltre to the Rangers on Tuesday.
Gagne had 152 saves with the Los Angeles Dodgers from 2002 to 2004, the most in a three-year period in major league history, and won the NL Cy Young Award in 2003. His streak of converting 84 consecutive save opportunities in those years is far and away the longest in major league baseball. Tom Gordon is second with 54 saves with Boston from 1998 through 1999.
Now Gagne will be used mostly in the eighth inning to set up Jonathan Papelbon and close when Papelbon needs a rest. Hideki Okajima, who has been outstanding in that setup role, will share it with Gagne and also could pitch earlier in games.
``I think (Boston is) the best sports city there is in America. That's why I jumped on that chance to come here,'' said Gagne, a Montreal native. ``I think I see myself as a closer, but a chance to have 15 more saves or win a World Series, that was a pretty easy choice.''
Gagne can become a free agent after this season and the Red Sox might be reluctant to meet his asking price.
``I want to be a Red Sox for the rest of the year and help them win a World Series,'' he said. ``That's all I care about.''
Injuries limited Gagne to 16 games and nine saves the past two seasons. He signed last December as a free agent with Texas, then went 2-0 with a 2.16 ERA and 16 saves in 17 chances.
``I've felt great all year, but it's just gotten better every week,'' said Gagne, who had ligament surgery on his right elbow in 2005 and surgery for a herniated disk last year. ``It's just good to be out on the field and not worry about your body.''
Boston third baseman Mike Lowell was with Florida when he played against Gagne.
``His stuff can be dominating,'' Lowell said. ``You know you're in for a challenge.''
Gagne may not be able to throw close to 100 mph, as he did before his elbow surgery, but he has three solid pitches.
``I think I have the same mentality. I just make a little more adjustments,'' he said. ``I can't really throw 98 anymore. I don't think it's a big difference. I still throw pretty hard. I have my changeup and curveball. I'm pretty much the same pitcher.''
Manager Terry Francona was excited to add Gagne. A passionate basketball fan, Francona also is happy with the Celtics trade for Kevin Garnett, who threw out the ceremonial first pitch Wednesday night. That deal also was finalized Tuesday.
``I'm really excited about'' Garnett, Francona said with a smile. ``Gagne is first, but not by a lot.''
There's already plenty of excitement about Boston's new setup man.
``It's funny. I got more phone calls yesterday and today than I did when I won the Cy Young,'' Gagne said. ``That's pretty amazing.''