Gagne sharp in Las Vegas rehab

Gagne sharp in Las Vegas rehab

LAS VEGAS -- For the first time since last season, Eric Gagne looked like Eric Gagne on Sunday.

In his first Minor League rehabilitation assignment after a sprained left knee led to a sprained right elbow, Gagne overwhelmed the three batters he faced while pitching the ninth inning for the Las Vegas 51s, who lost to the Sacramento River Cats, 10-7.

Gagne struck out Steve Jackson on three pitches, with a called third-strike curveball, caught Freddie Bynum looking with a slider and fanned Andrew Beattie on a slider. Beattie was just called up from Double-A and had three extra-base hits earlier Sunday.

Gagne made 13 pitches, 11 for strikes. He threw four fastballs -- two at 95 mph, two at 94 mph.

"I'm really happy with the way it went," said the Cy Young closer. "I've thrown bullpens and batting practice, but in a game situation, I turned it up a notch today. I've got to get back to where I need to be to close in the Majors. Right now, I'd say I'm ready right now, but it's all about [Monday]."

After the game, Gagne was to join the Dodgers in St. Louis for treatment Monday.

"[Monday]is the big day," he said. "I don't want to predict how many more I'll need. Maybe four. Maybe one, at least one more. A lot depends on how I feel [Monday]."

Without a complication, Gagne expects to meet the 51s on Tuesday in Memphis for a second -- and what he hopes will be a final -- rehab appearance.

Gagne sprained his knee in Florida playing pepper Feb. 24. Although he knew that injury would require four to six weeks to fully heal, he began pitching in games Mar. 21, trying to compensate for the sore leg. He threw a curveball Mar. 31 and suffered the sprained elbow.

He said neither bothered him Sunday.

"I was really anxious to see how I'd do," he said. "I waited so long, almost seven weeks with no setback. I'm here because I'm healthy, not to get healthy.

"But the biggest thing for me today was command. I was really surprised, I didn't expect it to be this good. It felt great, I felt comfortable, and I was throwing all of my pitches. The fastball and curve I threw for strikes. The changeup I was having a tough time throwing for strikes, but it was down. The fastball, I don't care of it's 95 or 97 or 85, I care what it looks like when they take swings and I felt the hitters weren't on it."

Perez's return imminent: Antonio Perez's rehabilitation assignment with the 51s has also been a mini-camp on playing third base, having played six of his eight games there. All indications are that he's only days away from rejoining the Major League club.

"He's ready to go," said Las Vegas manager Jerry Royster. "He is totally healthy. He's running extremely well. I think he's as good as can be right now."

Royster is a former Dodgers utility infielder, and it has been his project to prepare Perez for his opportunity at third base, especially since Jose Valentin's knee injury and considering the problems Perez had at third base during Spring Training.

"As a natural middle infield guy, he's used to catching balls on the run and moving in, where at third base that will hurt you because you move more from side to side," said Royster. "He sees that he will get at-bats now if he can play third base. He understands the urgency of it."

Perez agreed.

"I feel comfortable there now," he said. "I get more opportunity to play at third base. It's OK. I've taken groundballs every day. I think I'm ready."

Werth's return not imminent: Jayson Werth's recovery from a broken wrist continues at a slow pace. He was in the Las Vegas lineup Sunday, went 0-for-3 with a strikeout and a walk, and is 0-for-6 with three strikeouts overall.

But after feeling sore following his first rehab game Friday and taking Saturday off, Werth reported improvement after Sunday's game.

"I'm more excited now about the progress," he said. "The first game back, it got a little sore. But I feel we're heading in the right direction. It's like Spring Training just started for me, and after 60 plate appearances in six days in Florida, there was some soreness. I'm trying to get in shape and I don't have a lot of strength there now."

Ken Gurnick is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.