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Gagne to Have Surgery Today

Times Staff Writer

Eric Gagne will have surgery today to repair a herniated disk in his lower back, ending the closer’s season and probably his Dodger career.

Gagne should be ready to pitch again in spring training, a Dodgers spokesman said Friday, but the team isn’t expected to exercise a $12-million option in his contract for next season. The contract includes a $1-million buyout.

Gagne remained at St. Vincent Medical Center on Friday, where he was evaluated by Dr. Robert Watkins. Watkins, who will perform today’s procedure, determined that an epidural and nerve block did not take pressure off the nerve in Gagne’s back, thus requiring surgery to alleviate the pain.

“There’s no doubt in my mind that he’s disappointed, as we are too,” Dodgers Manager Grady Little said. “Right now there’s nothing we can do about it but just get it taken care of and get him back healthy.”

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Gagne, earning $10 million this season, sat out the first 51 games while recovering from surgery to remove a nerve from his right elbow. He made two one-inning appearances last month before returning to the disabled list because another nerve in his elbow caused discomfort. He awoke Tuesday with pain in his back, and was hospitalized Wednesday.

Gagne has pitched 16 games during the last season and a half. Despite his absence, his No. 38 jersey is still a fan favorite at Dodger Stadium, and before each game, a healthy-looking Gagne appears on the big screen and reminds fans to watch for foul balls.

The Dodgers will continue to use Takashi Saito in save situations. Saito has six saves in 36 appearances. Danys Baez, who began the season as the closer, is another option.

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For the fourth consecutive game, Jeff Kent was a late scratch from the lineup, this time only hours after Little informed reporters that the second baseman would play.

Kent, who continues to be bothered by an abdominal strain, said he felt OK while hitting in the batting cages below the stands, but felt pain after taking batting practice with his teammates.

“In the cage I felt confident,” Kent said. “Out on the field that confidence seemed to fade away every time I swung the bat. It’d be best for me to take another day.

“I’m right on the teeter. I’m on the edge of making a decision to play. You try to weigh that against being stupid and playing and hurting it worse. I’m right there.”

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Center fielder Kenny Lofton left the game in the second inning because of tightness in his right hamstring. He was replaced by Matt Kemp.


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