Gagne said his recovery from the injury he suffered a week ago has been steady, but incomplete. He still feels a painful sensation when the nerve is jarred. Unlike injuries to muscles and bones, the healing of damaged nerves knows no timetable. Brad Penny learned that in August 2004, when he damaged a biceps nerve and wasn't healthy until the following April.
"He's still having symptoms," trainer Stan Johnston said of Gagne. "When you tap the nerve, the sensation radiates."
Although Gagne's placement on the DL is retroactive to last Wednesday, he won't be ready when he's eligible to return next week. He will need to play catch, then throw off a mound, then probably face hitters. And none of that will happen until the nerve is completely sensation free. In Penny's case, while there was constant therapy, the keys were time and patience.
Gagne said the discomfort responded to anti-inflammatory medication, but "there's still something in there. It's better today than yesterday, and yesterday was better than the day before, but it's not where I can start throwing a ball. If there's any inflammation, I don't do anything. I feel helpless, sitting around waiting until it gets better."
In the past year, Gagne has pitched two innings in regular-season games and undergone two operations on his elbow. If doctors are correct, this latest injury is unrelated to the operations that first relocated, then removed, a sensory nerve just under the skin. This is Gagne's fourth stint on the disabled list since the start of the 2005 season.
"We have to get it calmed down and get through it," said general manager Ned Colletti. "We've played all but a handful of games without him this year. It's a concern. He's one of the top closers in the game, it's a vital position. I'm not dismissing it in any way, but some things you can't do anything about.
"I'm not his elbow, I'm not Mother Nature. I can't predict. You just have to make the best of what you do have."
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.