Sarah's Take: Eric Gagne
One of the biggest problems for the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2000 was their fourth and fifth positions in the starting rotation. Eric Gagne, 24, was supposed to be their fifth starter, but after a disappointing spring training he started at triple-A. However, an early injury to Kevin Brown brought Gagne to Los Angeles. Through the summer he made frequent trips between Los Angeles and Albuquerque. At Albuquerque he dominated, but in Los Angeles he struggled until September. Trying to skip triple-A might have slowed Gagne’s development.
Because Gagne impressed the Dodgers and baseball in September 1999, he received an opportunity to earn a spot in the Dodger rotation in spring training. Last September he showed an ability to change speeds effectively as he won one, lost one, and had a 2.10 ERA. His 93-mile-per-hour fastball, curveball, and changeup can baffle major league hitters, especially when he controlled every pitch. This spring he tried to blow away the hitters. When he overthrew, his pitches became straight and uncontrollable. If Gagne could have relaxed and done his job ignoring the pressure, he would have done a better job.
When Kevin Brown broke his right pinkie, Gagne received his opportunity to come to the major leagues and start. In three games in April he had no record with a 4.11 ERA. May and June were a struggle for him with a 4.50 and 4.76 ERA respectively. He self destructed in July with a 9.13 ERA warranting a demotion to Albuquerque. When the Dukes finished their season, the Dodgers again promoted Gagne. Because he found his control while in the minors, he dominated major league batters when he won three with a 2.53 ERA. His overall record of four wins and six losses with a 5.15 ERA is unsatisfactory. He struggled with his control forcing him to make many pitches, so he had difficulty going five innings. While striking out 79 batters, he issued 60 walks. In 101.1 innings he allowed 20 home runs.
Gagne’s tough competitive nature has impressed the Dodger management, but Gagne needs to learn when to challenge hitters and when to lull hitters to sleep. As many teams do, the Dodgers tried to rush Gagne, their young pitcher. This did not work. Gagne can be a good major league pitcher if he rebuilds his confidence and learns his craft properly. The question is whether the Dodgers will wait for him to develop or not.