Can you go back home? This is not a reference to Tiger Woods, but rather to onetime unbeatable Los Angeles Dodgers relief ace Eric Gagne.
Gagne's problem seems much simpler of the two. His is more a question of how much speed and movement remain on his bread and butter pitches. The Dodgers and Gagne have reportedly agreed on a minor league contract ($500,000 plus a similar amount in incentives) and an invitation to the major league spring training camp in Glendale, AZ, according to the reliable keyboard of Ken Gurnick of MLB.com. He said the deal could be announced as early as today (Friday).
If the 34-year-old Gagne, who has suffered through elbow and back surgery since his glory days, can make it back he will owe a big thank you to the Quebec Capitales of the Can-Am League. They had Gagne in their starting rotation last season (6-6, 4.65 and 64 strikeouts in 102.2 innings). It was an up and down summer on the mound although the Capitales are grateful Gagne packed Stade Municipal de Quebec on various occasions with other home-grown French-speaking fans.
Gagne was the Dodgers' greatest closer in their history--and one of baseball's best--including three All-Star selections, the '2003 National League Cy Young Award and an unprecedented 84 consecutive saves. Milwaukee released him last spring training.
Gagne also worked out for Philadelphia this winter, and had an offer, Gurnick says, from Colorado, but preferred returning to the Dodgers. Gagne would boost to 41, including 26 pitchers, the number of players with Independent experience who will be in major league camps. We ran the entire list in our subscriber-only Independent Baseball Insider column earlier this week.
THREE-FOURTHS OF CARIBBEAN SERIES PITCHERS HAVE HAD INDY TIME
We missed former Can-Am hurler Raul Valdes when we singled out Nelson Figueroa, now with the New York Mets, and St. Louis non-roster invitee Pete Parise in this space for making the all-tournament team at the end of the Caribbean Series. The left-handed Valdes pitched with both Nashua, NH and the New Jersey Jackals (Little Falls) in 2006. This trio made up three quarters of the all-tourney pitching selections. Figueroa spent some time with the Long Island (NY) Ducks of the Atlantic League while Parise, who figures to draw considerable attention during spring training because of his Triple-A closing feats last summer as well as winter baseball, started his pro career with Slippery Rock, PA (Frontier League).
LA FRANCOIS RETURNS TO AFFILIATED GAME
Onetime Boston Red Sox catcher Roger LaFrancois, who has been coaching in the Can-Am League in recent years (Worcester, MA and New Haven County in Connecticut), will be hitting coach this summer for St. Louis's rookie league team in Johnson City, TN. One can only hope it will start a good run with the Cardinals for LaFrancois, both a competent hitting coach and a good guy.