GLENDALE, Ariz. — In a previous life with the Los Angeles Dodgers, spring training meant something else to Eric Gagné.
That is, it meant little.
Back in the day when he was setting save records, Gagné would take it easy, relatively speaking, at Dodgertown in Vero Beach, Fla. The point of spring training was to fine-tune and avoid injury for the regular season. Gagné would appear in a half-dozen unmemorable games.
"If that many," Gagné said Saturday after he worked his first spring inning of 2010.
No longer the game's top closer and coming off several consecutive disappointing and/or injury plagued seasons, Gagné is just trying to catch on with the Dodgers. With them, he converted a major-league record 84 straight save opportunities.
"I've got to prove ... I've got to win a spot," said Gagné, who pitched with L.A. from 2002-06. "I can't just go out there, cruising, and just do my thing and get my work in [like before]. I've got to earn a spot."
It won't be easy for a guy who went 6-6 with a 4.65 ERA in 17 starts for Quebec of the Can-Am League in '09. Signed to a minor-league deal, the 34-year-old Gagné finds himself among several longshots to make the Dodgers.
They already have a strong closer, Jonathan Broxton(notes), and capable righty setup men in Ramon Troncoso(notes) and Ronald Belisario(notes). So, Gagne's chances depend not only on his own performance in March, but also the overall makeup of the staff.
In his inning against the White Sox, Gagne allowed two runs after getting two outs. Gagne said he was nervous, but in a good way.
"Results weren't as good as I wanted," Gagné said. "I wanted to go 1-2-3 with three strikeouts."
Manager Joe Torre said Gagné did OK for the first time out.
"He threw a lot of strikes and he got a lot of ground balls, up until that last one," Torre said, referring to the second of back-to-back RBI doubles.
Gagné said he doesn't feel like one outing will make or break his chances. At least not yet.
"It's a little early for [urgency]," Gagné said. "If you look at it that way, you're not going to perform. I know how my body reacts and it feels really good out there."
He also felt welcome at Camelback Ranch. Several fans turned out in No. 38 jerseys — a number Gagné now shares with Troncoso. Fans also gave him a loud ovation as he entered the game to the tune of "Welcome To The Jungle" by Guns N' Roses.
Just like old times.
"It's my home," Gagné said. "It's good to back and people were awesome. I heard [the song] but wasn't expecting it. Good memories."
Gagné hopes to make a few more.