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Gagne to miss 6-8 weeks after surgery

PHILADELPHIA -- Los Angeles Dodgers closer Eric Gagne will
miss six to eight weeks after having surgery Friday to remove a
nerve from his pitching elbow.

The operation -- the second for Gagne in less than a year --
lasted 30 minutes and was performed by Dr. Frank Jobe and Dr. Ralph
Gambardella of the team's medical staff in Los Angeles.

"I think it's good news," Jobe said on a conference call.
"He'll begin throwing a ball in three weeks, and in six weeks, get
in a game. Those are guesses, a week one way or the other. I don't
think it will be longer than six to eight weeks."

The nerve that was removed was the same one that was moved
during a 2005 season-ending operation June 24.

A near-unanimous winner of the NL Cy Young Award in 2003, Gagne
saved 152 games from 2002-04. The 30-year-old right-hander went 1-0
with a 2.70 ERA and eight saves in eight chances while appearing in
14 games last season.

Gagne didn't pitch in the Dodgers' first three games this year,
sitting out an 11-10 season-opening loss Monday to Atlanta in a
game Los Angeles never led, and serving a two-game suspension after
that.

Removing the nerve will allow Gagne to pitch without pain, but
he'll experience numbness on the skin along the anterior side of
his forearm.

"I think that's better than having a jingle every time he
throws," Jobe said. "He said the jingle was getting worse and it
made him jump when he throws."

Danys Baez, a proven closer acquired from Tampa Bay during the
offseason, will fill Gagne's role. Baez saved a career-high 41
games last season and pitched a scoreless ninth for a save in the
team's first victory of the season, a 5-4 win over Atlanta on
Tuesday night.

Gagne is earning $10 million this year and Baez is earning $4
million. Both are eligible for free agency after the season.

Gagne first told trainer Stan Johnston on Wednesday that he had
been pitching in pain all spring. The problem was diagnosed during
an examination by Gambardella after that -- while the Dodgers were
playing the Braves in the finale of the three-game series.

The right-hander pitched in 10 exhibition games, allowing five
earned runs. He didn't seem to have any problems, but his velocity
was down from his best days.

His last outing was Friday night in an exhibition game against
the Los Angeles Angels.

The Dodgers purchased the contract of 36-year-old right-hander
Takashi Saito from Triple-A Las Vegas to replace Gagne. Outfielder
Jayson Werth was moved to the 60-day disabled list.

Saito agreed to a minor league contract with the Dodgers in
February. He spent most of his 14-year career with the Yokohama
Baystars in Japan's Central League, compiling an 87-78 record with
48 saves. Saito had a 4.09 ERA in 11 innings for the Dodgers during
spring training.