For the first extended period of time in nearly a decade, Eric Gagne is in baseball mode. And, when that’s happening, not much else goes on in the life of the 41-year-old Cy Young Award winner turned Ducks relief pitcher.
“I’ve been working out,” Gagne said last week at Bethpage Ballpark in Central Islip, his new summer home. “When I’m in baseball mode, I’m in baseball mode. I watch movies a little bit, but I’m here working out at 12 o’clock every day and just trying to take care of that old body and make sure it’s ready to pitch.”
Gagne was signed by the Ducks on May 5 after pitching for Team Canada in the World Baseball Classic this spring. He last appeared in a major-league game in 2008. In his first appearance with the Ducks, coming only a few hours after being signed, Gagne was vintage Gagne — one inning, no hits, two strikeouts.
Easy as some 2003-flavored pie. (2003, of course, being the year Gagne won the Cy Young).
His next two outings? Not quite as smooth. All told, Gagne finished his first week in a Ducks uniform 0-2 with a 7.71 ERA. He has allowed two earned runs, three hits and two walks with three strikeouts in 21⁄3 innings over three appearances.
However, only one of those outings was truly subpar. Gagne allowed five runs (two earned), three hits and a walk in an 8-5 loss to Southern Maryland on May 6, one night after his lights-out debut. Tuesday he allowed an unearned run, no hits and a walk with a strikeout in the tenth inning of a 4-3 loss to York.
Gagne said his body feels good but he has to fine-tune some pitches.
“The first time was great and the second time wasn’t so great, but it feels good,” he said. “The body feels great, that’s what I’m really worried about. It’s spring training for me. Just going out and competing is great, but now I have to get into a rhythm mentally where I can really think two, three, four, or five pitches ahead. I’m not doing that, so that’s why I think I’m walking guys.”
Ducks manager Kevin Baez said Gagne has been “great” in the clubhouse, already leading by example and looking to help the team win any way he can.
“It looks like the ball is coming out of his hand pretty good,” Baez said. “He’s looking good. I think he’s only going to get stronger moving forward . . . He’s throwing the ball well and his recovery has been fine. Sharpness is going to come with games played.”
Along with his stellar resume, Gagne has brought a new wrinkle to his repertoire: a slider.
“That’s the new pitch I’ve been working on and [I] am kind of a little bit in between right now,” he said. “I don’t know when to use it. That’s what I’m trying to do. I’m going back to what I know how to do.”
Gagne and fellow former MLB-closer-turned-Duck David Aardsma have expanded on a friendship that began this offseason with (oddly enough) talk of a Gagne comeback.
“We have a mutual friend and that friend was having a party at their house and he showed up,” said Aardsma, who played for both the Mets and Yankees. “We got to talking and, since then, we’ve hung out four or five times.
“It’s a blast learning from him,” he said. “He’s one of the best closers of all time . . . he’s just this giant book of information. You just want to turn page, after page, after page and absorb as much as you can from him.”
Next Up: Ducks @ New Britain
Sunday, doubleheader, 1:35 p.m. and 4:35 p.m.