Brewers give Gagne shot

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MILWAUKEE --- Going into this season, the Milwaukee Brewers didn't quite know what they were going to get out of new closer Eric Gagne.

One week later, the only thing that's clear is something the Brewers already knew: He's no longer the 98-mph fireballer who once converted a record 84 consecutive save chances and won the 2003 National League Cy Young Award.

What remains to be seen is whether a less fearsome but slightly more wily Gagne can still consistently get outs when it counts. Brewers manager Ned Yost said he believes recent injuries have forced Gagne to outthink batters rather than overpowering them.

"I think in years past, we've just seen the 97-, 98-mile an hour Gagne," Yost said. "Since he's come back from his injury, he's learned to pitch. He still spots a 94-mile an hour fastball, which is really good. But he has a nice curveball, a nice changeup, and he pitches out there."

Gagne, a former standout at Seminole State in Oklahoma, was shaky in his first outing as a Brewer, giving up a three-run lead in the season opener against the Chicago Cubs in wet and chilly conditions at Wrigley Field -- struggling with everything from his footing on a wet mound to fog on his goggles.

But Gagne rebounded nicely Saturday, pitching a perfect ninth inning for his first save in Milwaukee's 5-4 victory over the San Francisco Giants.

With Cincinnati coming to town this week, Brewers fans will get a chance to compare Gagne with last year's closer, Francisco Cordero, who left the Brewers to sign with the Reds in the off- season. Cordero's departure left the Brewers looking for a closer, and they ended up signing Gagne to a one-year, $10 million deal.

It was a gamble, given the way Gagne's 2007 season ended in Boston, where he was 2-2 with a 6.75 ERA after being traded.

"I don't throw as hard as I used to," Gagne said. "But I still throw better than average."


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