"I am more than satisfied," Brewers manager Ned Yost said when asked about Gagne's closed-door comments. "It's a done, dead issue, as far as I'm concerned."Brewers GM Doug Melvin believes that Brewers fans will back Gagne. "I think if he's performing well, they will," Melvin said. "I haven't heard much about it on my winter caravan stops around [Wisconsin]. I don't get many questions about Eric or the Mitchell Report. I get more questions about the depth of our starting pitching than about steroids. There were some towns where I didn't get any questions at all about the Mitchell Report. "I think a lot of people know that there is a drug program now that wasn't in place before, and so they are moving forward. There is always going to be talk and speculation." Derrick Turnbow, who was briefly anointed the closer before the Brewers inked Gagne, knows the feeling. Turnbow was the first Major Leaguer cited for performance-enhancing drugs, when in 2003, while in a training camp for the U.S. Olympic team, he tested positive for a substance related to androstenedione that was banned under international rules but not by Major League Baseball. Turnbow acknowledged taking an over-the-counter nutritional supplement that he said led to the positive test. He was surprised to be named in the Mitchell Report for that past incident, and on Monday expressed support for Gagne. "We don't look at any teammates differently than any others," Turnbow said. "He will work hard and do his job, just like we do, and it's something he has to deal with on his own. "He should be good for us. He has a great track record, and if he pitches well, he'll help the team a lot. It's tough to lose a guy like Coco [Francisco Cordero], but Gagne definitely has the track record." After the team's workout, a different Gagne appeared. He met with a smaller group of scribes in the clubhouse, leaning up against his locker while wearing a backwards Brewers camp and answering "baseball only" questions. There was plenty to talk about. Gagne was the game's best closer from 2002-04, converting 152 of 158 save opportunities, including a record 84 straight. He made three All-Star teams and won the 2003 National League Cy Young Award.
But since the end of 2004, he has undergone three surgeries and has been dogged by elbow and back injuries. Gagne inked a one-year contract with the Rangers for 2007 and pitched well, compiling 16 saves and a 2.16 ERA. Then came a midseason trade to the Red Sox, and a new role working the innings in front of Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon.Gagne didn't take to the change. He said he was actually throwing with more velocity, but a 6.75 ERA with Boston didn't show it. The Red Sox, though, won the World Series. "It doesn't matter how hard it was over there," Gagne said. "It was really stressful. If I had to do it over again, I would do it over again in a heartbeat. ... When I was in there, it was hard because you are searching for, 'What is the answer? Why am I not pitching like I was pitching two weeks ago?' And I think it was a little bit of trying to impress everybody, trying to do too much, and I got out of my routine a little bit. I don't know if the role had anything to do with it, but I really wanted to be a closer this year." Yost spoke with Red Sox manager Terry Francona over the winter, and came to the conclusion that Gagne's second-half woes were, in fact, tied to his new setup role. Closers thrive on repetition and routine, Yost believes, and Gagne should have success back in that role with the Brewers. Gagne said he only considered suitors who were offering the chance to close. At the end of the day, he also spoke vaguely about the Mitchell Report. Gagne was asked to characterize the mood of his offseason. "It was stressful. Real stressful," he said. "It was hard, but now it's back to baseball. That's what I'm happy about. Back on the field, just to get with the guys and talk baseball and the way I approach hitters and stuff like that. That's really what I'm all about. That's what I like about baseball." How did he keep such a low profile? "Just change your phone number," Gagne joked. "Pretty simple. Change your phone number and don't talk to anybody. I've got four kids, so that's easy."
Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.