Bust out your goggles. Start growing a goatee. Practice your fist pump. Yes, its true – Eric “Game Over” Gagne has completed his rehab assignment for the Las Vegas 51s and is set to return to the Dodgers this week.
For those of you who haven’t been following the story, Gagne has hardly pitched in over a year, ever since he sprained his knee in Spring Training of 2005, tweaked his elbow trying to pitch on a bad knee, and then tweaked it again trying to come back too early.
It remains to be seen if Gagne will be able to return to the form that made him the game’s best closer by far from 2002 to 2004 and carried him to a National League Cy Young Award in 2003.
But for those who may have forgotten just how good Gagne was during those three years, it is worth pointing out that since August of 2002, Gagne saved 116 games and blew only 2 save chances, and during part of that stretch compiled a Major-League record streak of 84 saves in a row without a blown save. Compare that to current Dodger closer Danys Baez, who has already blown 5 saves in 14 opportunities, and it becomes clear why the Dodgers are so anxiously awaiting Gagne’s return, even if he is only 80 percent of what he was before.
But hopes are high that he can be as good as ever. Gagne says he is pain free for the first time in a year, and his pitches apparently are still as nasty as ever. In the words of Las Vegas catcher Eric Langhill, who caught Gagne on Monday, “His fastball’s got life to it. His changeup is like a Nintendo changeup. His curveball is like a Nintendo curveball.”