Gagne's perfect season nets Cy Young

NEW YORK -- Eric Gagne of the Los Angeles Dodgers became the
first relief pitcher in 11 years to win a Cy Young Award, easily
beating San Francisco's Jason Schmidt for the National League honor.

Gagne, who converted all 55 of his save opportunities, received
28 of 32 first-place votes and 146 points in balloting released
Thursday by the Baseball Writers' Association of America.

It was just the ninth time a reliever won a Cy Young, the first
in the NL since San Diego's Mark Davis in 1989.

"We haven't seen a lot of relievers win that award, so I was a
little worried," Gagne said during a telephone conference call.

Schmidt was second with two first-place votes and 73 points.
Chicago's Mark Prior got the other first-place votes and was third
with 60 points.

Gagne, a 27-year-old right-hander, was 2-3 with a 1.20 ERA and
had 137 strikeouts and 20 walks in 82 1/3 innings.

He was converted from a starter to a reliever after the 2001
season and had 52 saves in 2002.

"I knew I had the mental attitude to be a closer, it was just a
matter of doing it in the major leagues," Gagne said.

"As a starter, you have to be more relaxed, you have to control your
emotions more."

He is the only pitcher to reach 50 saves in more than one season
and has converted 62 consecutive save chances dating to 2002, a
major-league record.

"I don't really care about the streak," said Gagne, the first
reliever to win a Cy Young since Oakland's Dennis Eckersley won the
AL award in 1992.

He is just the second Canadian to win a Cy Young, following
Ferguson Jenkins of the Cubs in 1971.

Gagne failed to hold a lead just once this season -- he allowed a
two-run, go-ahead homer to Hank Blalock of Texas in the eighth inning of the All-Star game.

"For me, the All-Star game doesn't count," Gagne said.

Because he was 18 days shy of being eligible for arbitration and
his contract was automatically renewed by the Dodgers in March,
Gagne doesn't get a bonus added to his $550,000 salary.

He figures to earn $3.5 million or more next season.

"I'm not bitter. That's the business side of it. There's no
hard feeling," Gagne said. "Now, it's going to be a different

Schmidt, 17-5 with a league-leading 2.34 ERA, gets $75,000 for
finishing second.

Prior, 18-6 with a 2.43 ERA, gets $100,000 for winding up third.

Prior, who is getting married Saturday, thought Gagne deserved to

"To do what he did and to not blow a save, especially in the
situations he was put in, one-run games a lot of times, and to
rattle off 50-some odd straight saves, is unbelievable,'' he said.