Super Sammy Gets $2 Million Birthday Present

Takashi Saito signed a one-year, $2 million deal with up to $200,000 in incentives, probably based on appearances or games finished, one day before his 38th birthday. Although the Dodgers had all the leverage, for the second year in a row, they were generous with a guy and showed him the proper respect considering what he means to the club.

Saito had 39 saves (in 43 opportunities) and a 1.40 ERA after 14 years in Japan. He has done a splendid job taking over for injured Eric Gagné, saving 85 games for the Dodgers over the past two seasons.

Saito earned $1.3 million last year in salary and bonuses. After the season, he helped the Dodgers recruit fellow Japanese pitcher Hiroki Kuroda, who signed a three-year, $35.3 million contract.

By contrast, Saito came to the Dodgers in 2006 on a Minor League contract hoping to make the club out of his first Spring Training but he didn't, initially being sent to Triple-A Las Vegas. There were some in the front office opposed to signing him at all.

"It doesn't bother me," Saito said of baseball's salary system. "Kuroda was a superstar in Japan and his pay is based on that. I worked my way up from the Minor Leagues and got a chance to produce the numbers I have and finally got to this point.

"They've always treated me fairly in regards to contract negotiations. At the same time, everyone has their own perceptions of how they rank me. The Dodgers are showing that by my salary."

Saito said there was no discussion of a multiyear contract in his negotiations and he would not speculate how long he wants to continue pitching. Assuming he still wants to play next year, he will be eligible for arbitration next fall.

Torre's Press Conference
Officially kicking off the spring season, manager Joe Torre held a press conference at Dodgertown the day before players were to officially report.

The hour long conference revealed only that the Dodgers were the only club that talked to Torre about becoming their manager last fall in the wake of his decision not to accept the Yankees' offer, and he also said Don Mattingly informed him as far back as Dec. 5 that he probably would step aside as hitting coach.

Much of the conversation centered around the ongoing steroid issue, with New York reporters hoping to get a rise out of Torre by mentioning the that many of the players who played for Torre with the Yankees (Clemens, Andy Pettitte, Chuck Knoblauch, Jason Giambi) have had their reputations as least somewhat tainted by allegations of steroid use.

Asked if that would affect Joe's legacy as the Yankees manager, Torre said that is for others to decide, derailing that train of thought. With four World Series titles and six pennants, why would Joe worry what the NY reporters think of him?

Down Memory Lane-- Can you remember a Dodger prospect by the name of Marcos Carvajal? He was signed by the Dodgers in 2002 (playing for the GC Dodgers and Ogden), taken by Milwaukee in the 2004 Rule V draft, purchased by Colorado, traded to Tampa Bay, went to the Mets on waivers, then back to Tampa Bay on waivers and was just dropped to AAA Albuquerque with an invite to spring training. With a suitcase full of super saver sky miles, the kid will be only 22 this season. P

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