Has Gagne's conversion spelled
relief for the Dodgers?

Updated: June 24, 2002, 1:57 PM ET
By by Steven R. Vanderpool, STATS. Inc.
Back in the early 1970s, the well-worn path a starting pitcher journeyed to become a reliever was being repaved with potential glory and riches. Just as future Hall of Famer Rollie Fingers was adding wax to curl the ends of his trademark mustache for the first time, the transformation of the stereotypical reliever from a perceived failure as a starter to situational specialist was underway.

Ten days before the 2002 season opener, the Dodgers took what many considered a major gamble in handing the closer job to an untested Eric Gagne. By not re-signing Jeff Shaw, the club's all-time saves leader (his 43 in 2001 tied for third in majors), and trading the offseason's projected closer Matt Herges (75 appearance in 2001, one save) to the Expos on March 23, Los Angeles GM Dan Evans was putting the organization's faith in a pitcher who, over the last three seasons, had split time between the parent club and its Double-A and Triple-A affiliates.

The 26-year-old Gagne had battled inconsistency throughout his career, not only over the course of a season, but within a single game as well. But Dodgers manager Jim Tracy and pitching coach Jim Colborn saw something in the former non-drafted free agent, despite the fact that he had never recorded a save at any level of professional baseball and had made only 12 relief appearances (10 with the Dodgers, two in the minors) in his entire pro career.