I was able to watch Eric Gagne throw batting practice yesterday and it sure did give me a good feeling. It also made me think of two things that Eric brings to the table that sets him apart.
The first is Eric’s ability to change speeds as a closer, which is somewhat unique considering how hard he throws. Eric has an outstanding straight change up – which he displayed during his batting practice session – and an above average, old-fashioned, overhand curve ball. Now I know that closers such as Trevor Hoffman with San Diego and Keith Foulke with Boston have great change ups, but they don’t throw as hard as Eric. When Eric throws his curveball, often hitters take the pitch because they just get frozen. It is very hard to hit when having to track three such distinct pitches and speeds.
The other is the presence that Eric brings to the ball club. He has the ability, through his personality, to mingle with all of the various groups — young, old, position players and pitchers. There is a confidence that he provides the club that everything will be alright. The other team also knows that if they are down after seven or eight innings, their chances of coming back are slim. I experienced that feeling first-hand as a player when I was a member of the 1987 Twins with Jeff Reardon, and I see the same intangibles in Eric.
We are keeping our fingers crossed that Eric will again be healthy for the entire season because we need him not only on the mound but in the clubhouse. So far so good.