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Surgery needed to fix sprained ligament

SAN DIEGO -- Dodgers closer Eric Gagne will have
season-ending surgery to fix a sprained ligament in his right
elbow.

The 2003 NL Cy Young Award winner had a second MRI exam Tuesday
and doctors concluded he needs Tommy John surgery. The All-Star
reliever has a second-degree sprain of his ulnar collateral
ligament and was recently placed on the 15-day disabled list. His
operation was scheduled for Friday.

Manager Jim Tracy says next season's All-Star Break might be a realistic goal for Gagne's return, though the closer hopes to be back sooner.

"I'm just anxious to come back," he told the Los Angeles Times. "I'll be back by May, I think. Maybe I'll be stronger."

Gagne, who owns the major league record of 84 consecutive saves,
landed on the disabled list for the first time in his seven-year
major league career on April 1 when he hurt his elbow, possibly
while compensating for a knee injury sustained during spring
training. It was the same elbow that underwent ligament replacement
surgery in 1997.

Gagne returned to action May 14 but aggravated the injury while
pitching against Minnesota on June 12.

"It is a partial tear of the ligament, not a complete tear,"
Tracy said. "The surgery is not a complicated surgery. The damage
is not significant to make the surgery overwhelming."

With Gagne out for the rest of the season, the closer role falls
to Yhency Brazoban, who has converted 11 of 14 save chances in
Gagne's absence. The 24-year-old Brazoban is in his first full
major league season after making his big league debut last Aug. 5.
Brazoban is 2-2 this year with a 4.66 ERA in 31 games. The
right-hander has struck out 27 batters in 29 innings with 10 walks.

Brazoban finished the 2004 season with a 6-2 record and a 2.48
ERA in 31 appearances. He also held opponents to a .219 batting
average.

Gagne was 1-0 with eight saves and a 2.70 ERA in 13 1/3 innings
since his return from the disabled list. Dating to last Aug. 28, he
has converted 18 consecutive save opportunities.

Gagne had a club-record 55 saves and a 1.20 ERA in 2003. He
agreed to a $19 million, two-year contract in the offseason after
recording 152 saves and averaging 122 strikeouts during his first
three seasons as a closer.

"Knowing what Eric Gagne means to this organization, to the
success of the organization in the 4½ years that I've been here,
you feel for both," Tracy said. "He's a special guy to me."

The Dodgers also said backup catcher Paul Bako will undergo
surgery Friday to repair the anterior cruciate ligament in his left
knee. Bako, who hit .250 with four RBI in 10 starts, was placed on
the 15-day disabled list May 27.