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News » Milwaukee Brewers Inside Pitch 2009-02-27

Milwaukee Brewers Inside Pitch 2009-02-27

Milwaukee Brewers Inside Pitch 2009-02-27
Eric Gagne isn't stupid. He knows he failed badly as the Brewers' closer in 2008.

At the end of the season, Gagne pulled aside general manager Doug Melvin and apologized for being unable to live up to his $10 million free agent deal.

"I told him I was disappointed in myself and I let the team and organization down," Gagne said. "It's easy to succeed, it's hard to fail.

"You look at your paycheck every two weeks and you say, 'Man, that's crazy.' I wanted to pitch better. It was something I felt bad about.

"I knew he was taking a big chance on me and sticking his neck out. He makes a lot of moves and gets judged on all his moves. That was a big move he made last year, and it didn't work out."

Accordingly, Gagne has atonement on his mind this spring. In a somewhat surprising move, the Brewers signed the 33-year-old right-hander to a minor league deal after camp began, giving him the chance to make their bullpen as a setup man.

If the Brewers put Gagne on their 40-man roster by March 25, he receives a $1.5 million salary with another $3 million available in incentives. It's a no-risk deal for the Brewers, but Gagne says he wants to make good and atone for his sins of a year ago.

"That's why I wanted to do it that way," he said. "They paid me a lot of money last year and I didn't really deliver. Just to come back with a little bit of payback."

Gagne, who had Lasik eye surgery and no longer wears his trademark goggles, said he's looking forward to being a teammate of closer Trevor Hoffman, whom he knows well.

"Two years ago, we were talking about closing and setup and stuff," said Gagne. "I said it would be pretty cool to play with him. I said if I'm going to be a setup guy, it would be for this guy or Mariano (Rivera)

"He's a great guy, a guy you can really learn from. He's got a great work ethic. He's the best of all time."

Gagne admittedly became a lightning rod for fans last season, eliciting boos even later in the year when he re-emerged as a mostly reliable setup man. So, why would he sign on for more abuse?

"If I pitch good, they're going to be happy," said Gagne. "If you pitch good, they're going to love you. If you pitch bad, they're not going to love you as much."

TOP CANDIDATE TO SURPRISE: 3B Bill Hall got folks excited three years ago by socking 35 homers and driving in 85 runs. Then came two years of considerable back-sliding at the plate, prompting some fans to call for his ouster. Hoping to get back on track at the plate, Hall had LASIK eye surgery over the winter and expects to see the ball better. The Brewers, who have $15 million invested in Hall over the next two seasons, hope it is an eye-opening experience.

TOP CANDIDATE TO DISAPPOINT: RHP Jeff Suppan is in the third year of a four-year, $42 million contract. He was awful last September, failing to win a game, and was shelled in his only playoff appearance. If Suppan continues that slide, his contract will become a financial albatross. He is slated to make $12.5 million in both 2009 and 2010, so punting him would be very costly.

AUTHORITY FIGURES: Manager Ken Macha, who posted an impressive 368-280 record with Oakland from 2003-06, is in his first season at the helm of the Brewers. Macha is a stickler for fundamentals and said he wanted to make his own judgments on players in spring camp rather than coming in with preconceived notions. Dale Sveum is the new hitting coach and will focus on improving the team's .325 on-base percentage from last year. Bill Castro now runs the pitching staff after 17 years as bullpen coach. Willie Randolph, who interviewed for the managerial position, was hired as bench coach. Brad Fischer is the new third base coach, and Stan Kyles was promoted from the system to be bullpen coach. Only first base coach Ed Sedar returns to his former position.

Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:
Added: February 27, 2009

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