Gagne arrives in Boston
Reliever excited about starting new chapter in Sox uniform
BOSTON -- All Eric Gagne had to do was monitor his cellphone to gauge the power of Red Sox Nation.
"It was funny because I got more phone calls yesterday and today then I did when I won the Cy Young [Award]," Gagne said. "That was pretty amazing."
A day after being acquired in a deadline deal with the Texas Rangers, Gagne arrived at Fenway Park and was available out of the Boston bullpen on Wednesday night, wearing No. 83.
"He can wear [No.] 183, I don't care," quipped Red Sox third baseman Mike Lowell.
Why 83? That is Gagne's regular number backwards, and 38 is occupied on the Red Sox by Curt Schilling.
The biggest number that jumped out for Gagne was the seven games the Red Sox led the American League East by entering Wednesday's game. Had he still been in Texas, Gagne would have still been in last place, some 15 1/2 games behind the Angels.
"In Texas, it was going to be possible, mathematically, but it would have been hard," Gagne said. "It's a good feeling to be here in first place. [I'm] looking forward to going to the World Series."
Life is good for Gagne right now. As hectic as getting traded in the middle of a season can be, Gagne truly seemed excited to start another chapter in his career, even if it won't be in his customary role as closer.
"I want to be a closer, I always wanted to be a closer, I think I see myself as a closer," Gagne said. "But to have a chance to have 15 more saves or win a World Series? That was a pretty easy choice. I'm just glad to be here. It's a great place."
And winning it all -- something Gagne has never done -- is the primary reason he waived his no-trade clause to come to a team he might well leave as a free agent this winter.
"Winning is everything in baseball," Gagne said. "That's our passion, that's the reason why we compete. It was really easy [to approve the trade]. I wanted to be with the Red Sox and help them win the World Series. That's all I care about. There [are] guys that play 15, 20 years and can't even taste a World Series. That's what I'm here for. It's a good chance to be here, and I jumped at it."
Gagne, who has overcome a barrage of injuries to regain his health this year, will stay in the routine that has worked for him. Don't look for him to enter many games in the middle of an inning.
"New challenge," Gagne said of being Jonathan Papelbon's main setup man. "It's gonna be different. I'm going to have to get used to it a little bit. I'm probably going to do my regular routine, I'm just going to close the eighth inning. That's the only difference. Really looking forward to that, that's going to be a good challenge."
Last December, when Papelbon was going back to starting and Gagne was a free agent, there were significant talks with the Red Sox. How close did he come to signing with Boston instead of Texas?
"It was pretty close," Gagne said.
Close enough, in fact, that Red Sox manager Terry Francona spoke with Gagne during the Winter Meetings in Florida.
But now Francona has the best of both worlds -- two relief pitchers with overpowering stuff. Add in Hideki Okajima and his 0.87 ERA, the recently revived Mike Timlin and the budding Manny Delcarmen and Francona couldn't help but feel good about his options in Wednesday's game.
"This isn't just for tonight," Francona said. "It's for the whole year. We have to play good baseball. You never forget about that. Any time you feel like you got deeper, especially with pitching, it is exciting."
Gagne grew up in Montreal as an Expos fan at a time when Francona was part of an exciting team that included Gary Carter and Andre Dawson.
"There's so many [Red Sox] fans in Montreal and Canada, especially with the Expos gone now," said Gagne. "Everybody in Montreal are pretty much Boston fans. Me, personally, I was an Expos fan. Terry was one of my favorite players. They were my favorite team, but Boston's always been my second favorite team."
At least for the next few months, Boston is Gagne's town and the Red Sox are his team.
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.