Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Wait-And-See Best Tactic in Evaluating Eric Gagne

True, Rangers reliever Eric Gagne has just had a decent outing, throwing 40 pitches from a mound with observers thinking he may have topped the 90-mph mark. But don't pop the cork on the champaign just yet.

With little more than three weeks left in camp, it's awfully late to still be trying to figure out just exactly what Gagne has left. Despite rosy reports, he has yet to throw with full velocity and has been unable even to throw batting practice, let alone appear in a game.

Though Gagne says his elbow feels strong, that's not news. It's his back that's the bigger question; the elbow being deemed to be game ready in Los Angeles last year when he went down due to acute, debilitating difficulties with his spine, requiring surgery. In relative terms, Gagne's spinal trouble makes his elbow incision look no more serious than a paper cut.

Even more troubling than Gagne's being held out of game action this late in camp is the fact that the Dodgers, Red Sox and Indians all passed on Gagne after studying his medical prognosis. Only the Rangers were willing to make a $6 million gamble.

Until Gagne rediscovers his 96-mph fastball, don't be surprised if Akinori Otsuka, who converted 32 saves last season, emerges as the Texas closer again for the short term, if not for the season.