Dodgers closer Eric Gagne went on the 15-day disabled list yesterday with a sprained ligament in his right elbow, the same problem that sidelined him the first 35 games of the season.

The all-star didn't know if he would need surgery, but acknowledged he was feeling "very nervous" and preparing for the worst.

"I always do. I always get ready for the worst and if it's better than that, you're happy," Gagne said.

He will undergo a second MRI exam in Los Angeles and will be examined by Dodgers team doctor Frank Jobe.

After an MRI exam on Monday, Royals doctor Steven Joyce concluded Gagne suffered a second-degree sprain of the ulnar collateral ligament.

"The plan will be for Eric to get with Frank next Tuesday . . . and if there's any residual swelling that's still sitting there, to get as much or all of it out," Dodgers Manager Jim Tracy said. "We'll have another MRI on Tuesday to find out exactly where the situation stands."

Gagne aggravated the injury while pitching against the Twins on Sunday. Tracy refused to speculate on how long Gagne could be out.

"We're not going to talk about that until [Jobe] sees him. He's just looked at the MRI. He hasn't seen the patient."

Gagne, who owns the major league record of 84 consecutive saves, landed on the DL for the first time in his seven-year major league career on April 1 when he hurt his elbow, possibly while compensating for a knee injury suffered during spring training. It was the same elbow that underwent ligament replacement surgery in 1997.

He was replaced on the roster by RHP Elmer Dessens, who was activated from the 15-day disabled list.

After returning on May 14, Gagne was 1-0 with eight saves and a 2.70 ERA in 131/3 innings.

Royals Manager Buddy Bell agreed that any opponent would feel fortunate not having to face Gagne.

"Gagne might be the best closer in the game so, yeah, you feel lucky you don't have to face him in that situation," Bell said. . . .

Dodgers third base coach Glenn Hoffman was struck on the head by a ball during batting practice before yesterday's game at Kansas City. He was taken to a hospital for X-rays, which were negative, and he returned before the game ended.

Hoffman remained on the ground for several minutes before being helped to the clubhouse. A Dodgers spokesman said Hoffman was taken to St. Luke's Hospital for a CT scan to check for a possible concussion. He was conscious and speaking when he left the stadium.

Hoffman was standing on the third base side of the infield near the Dodgers' dugout when the ball struck him squarely on the side of the head.

* BROWER IS A BRAVE: RHP Jim Brower agreed to terms with the Braves for the rest of the season.

Brower, who has pitched 296 major league games -- including 28 starts -- the past seven seasons, was released Monday by the Giants. The Braves signed the 32-year-old to add depth in the bullpen. Financial terms of the deal were not released.

"I think he's all right. He's always pitched good against us," Braves Manager Bobby Cox said. "He can throw a lot. We'll see where Jimmy fits in."

In 32 appearances for the Giants this season, Brower was 2-1 with one save and a 6.53 ERA over 301/3 innings. He has a career record of 32-29 with five saves for Cleveland, Cincinnati, Montreal and the Giants.

-- From News Services