Notes: Gagne breaks out curveballs

Notes: Gagne breaks out curveballs

VERO BEACH, Fla. -- Eric Gagne's first bullpen session of the spring wasn't a thing of beauty, but he attempted a few curveballs for the first time since elbow surgery and at least his arm didn't fall off.

Gagne threw 42 pitches to fellow Canadian catcher Russell Martin on the first day of workouts for pitchers and catchers. Martin has caught Gagne since he resumed throwing a month ago.

"He missed with a couple pitches and got mad at himself," Martin said of Gagne. "I've seen him do that before. He's been that good, he's used to being perfect. He makes little mistakes, for him, and he expects to be consistent all the time. That's how he got 84 saves in a row.

"The bullpen [session] he had in LA last week was a great 'pen. Not all 'pens are great. He didn't seem worried about it."

Gagne showed a dropping changeup, a fastball not as lively as the one he showed manager Grady Little in the Dodger Stadium bullpen session last week, and an understandably rusty curveball.

"He couldn't get the release point the first couple [of curveballs]," said Martin. "Obviously, the curveball puts more strain than any other pitch, which is probably why he hasn't tried any until now. He'll be fine -- hopefully."

Meeting the squad: Addressing pitchers and catchers before their first workout Thursday, Little underscored the importance of health by cautioning players not to do too much too soon.

"I don't want them doing more than they're capable of doing this soon," said Little. "I don't want guys, especially the kids, trying to impress somebody and hurting themselves."

Little got his first look at some of the top Dodgers pitching prospects in the old strings area, where Chad Billingsley, Jonathan Broxton and Justin Orenduff, among others, threw.

"It's exciting to finally see them throw after hearing so much about them," Little said.

Also throwing Thursday were Derek Lowe, Danys Baez, Kelly Wunsch, D.J. Houlton, Kurt Ainsworth and Tim Hamulack.

Where are they now?: Two years ago, the top Dodgers pitching prospects were Edwin Jackson and Greg Miller.

Jackson was dealt to Tampa Bay in the Baez trade.

And Miller?

After two shoulder operations and being shut down in last year's Arizona Fall League, he's been cleared for full activity and scheduled for a bullpen session Friday.

"It's pretty discouraging wanting to compete and not being physically able to," said the 21-year-old left-hander. "This year I'm finally ready to show what I have. They saw what I did in 2003. Hopefully I'm still on people's minds. I just have to go prove myself again."

Miller had the bursa sac removed from his shoulder during Spring Training in 2004, but he believes the problem wasn't solved until having the tip of his shoulder blade and collarbone shaved just before Spring Training last year.

"That's when I started to feel better," he said.

He was moved to the bullpen when he returned and made 21 appearances at three stops last year, finishing up at Double-A Jacksonville, where he will probably return in 2006. The organization believes Miller needs to throw from a three-quarter arm slot. He said he feels best when he keeps his hand on top of the ball during release.

No-mar positions: Nomar Garciaparra appeared comfortable handling ground balls at first base during pitchers' fielding practice. Garciaparra is in camp early to accelerate his transition from shortstop.

He also said, despite suggestions that he might wind up in the outfield, he expects to play first base exclusively this spring.

"I'm not going to the outfield," he said. "I'm focusing on one position to be the best I can be there. It will take time. I'll make mistakes and I'm not afraid of that. Actually, I'm hoping to, so I know what to work on. If I was perfect, then I'd be scared."

When Cesar Izturis heals from his elbow surgery, the speculation will resume about Garciaparra moving to the outfield, with Jeff Kent sliding over to first base and opening second for Izturis.

Little wouldn't rule out that possibility during the season, but confirmed that Garciaparra will stay at first during the spring.

"That's a handful for any individual," Little said.

Furcal healing: Shortstop Rafael Furcal, who had arthroscopic surgery on his right knee a month ago, said he bases his expectation of being ready for games in three weeks on similar surgery he had on the left knee as a Minor Leaguer in 1998.

"I was ready in about a month and I think I'll be ready just as quickly," he said.

However, Furcal said he has not swung a bat or run since the surgery, but expects to start both this week.

Not here: Reliever Yhency Brazoban continues to have visa trouble and the club does not know when he will leave the Dominican Republic. Franquelis Osoria is expected in Friday.

Hitting coach Eddie Murray missed the first workout while attending to personal business.

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