The once-dominant closer hopes to begin his comeback on Friday when the Texas Rangers open a three-game series at Safeco Field.
Gagne recorded 152 saves for the Los Angeles Dodgers from 2002-04, and converted a record 84 straight opportunities during one stretch, including all 55 in 2003 when he had a 1.20 ERA and won the NL Cy Young Award.
Two operations on his elbow and one on his back, though, limited him to 15 1-3 innings since 2005.
Gagne signed a one-year deal with the Rangers (4-5) as a free agent in December after the Dodgers declined his $12 million option. He started the season on the disabled list to spend more time getting ready, but is scheduled to be activated Friday.
Rangers rookie manager Ron Washington jokingly said nothing short of a perfect game from starter Kevin Millwood (1-1, 4.91 ERA) could prevent him from using Gagne in the series opener.
“If we have the lead in the ninth, or if we’re behind in the eighth,” Washington said on the team’s official Web site. “My intention is to try and get him in on Friday. And I hope it’s a save situation.”
Gagne made his final tuneup outing on Tuesday, throwing a perfect ninth inning for Double-A Frisco.
“You’re talking about one of the best, if not the best, closers in the history of the game,” Rangers shortstop Michael Young said. “Playing behind him, you just see that when he walks on the mound, he’s just got that closer attitude. You can’t put a price on that.”
Millwood gave up three runs in six innings in his second start of the season Saturday, an 8-4 win over Boston. He has made nine career starts against the Mariners, going 5-3 with a 3.65 ERA in those outings, and is 1-2 with a 3.96 ERA in four outings in Seattle.
If Gagne does make an appearance, he’ll face a Seattle team coming off a frustrating road trip. The Mariners (3-2) were scheduled to play seven games on the trip, but their four-game set in Cleveland was wiped out because of wintry conditions and the finale of their three-game series in Boston was postponed Thursday by rain.
“I don’t know that I have ever been on a road trip like this,” Seattle manager Mike Hargrove said on the Mariners’ official Web site. “I don’t think there is any way you can describe it. I really don’t.”
The Mariners were pounded 14-3 on Tuesday by the Red Sox, but bounced back to win 3-0 the next night. Felix Hernandez took a no-hitter into the eighth inning and finished with a one-hitter, overshadowing Daisuke Matsuzaka’s Fenway Park debut.
Seattle starter Jarrod Washburn (0-0, 3.00) finally will get to make his second start of the season on Friday. He was originally scheduled to start both the second game in Cleveland and Wednesday’s finale in Boston.
“The way it stands, I’m going to prepare for my third team for one start,” he said. “That’s probably never been done.”
Washburn made his season debut on April 3, when he gave up two runs in six innings without receiving a decision in the Mariners’ 8-4 win over Oakland. He is 7-6 with a 4.12 ERA in 23 career appearances, including 21 starts, against the Rangers.