Saito Sidelined for Six Weeks

In a season as unpredictable as global warming, the Dodgers suffered yet another blow when closer Takashi Saito was placed on the disabled list with a sprained ligament in his pitching elbow. He will rehab for six weeks and then be reevaluated.

Saito is 3-3 with 17 saves and a 2.18 ERA this season. His 80 career saves in just 2 1/2 years ranks him eighth on the all-time Dodger save charts.

Saito experienced what he described as an abnormal tightness in his elbow in the ninth inning of a tied ballgame against the Florida Marlins on Saturday night, forcing him to make a premature exit and prompting Torre to say that he had to "assume the worst."

GM Ned Colletti, receiving the bad news while at the All-Star Game in New York, said, "We'll get together with Joe and come up with a plan. Obviously, it is not easy replacing someone like him.

"As far as trading for a closer, its a lot like trying to acquire a shortstop - it's a premium position and most teams don't carry an excess. We also have candidates within the staff. Many times closers are discovered in times like this.

We'll know more about what we'll do short-term in a couple of days. And we'll know more about Saito's status as the rehab develops."?We will put Saito on the 15-day DL and have a corresponding move on Friday."

If surgery is necessary, it might signal the end of a very remarkable story. Saito, born in 1970, would undergo a year or so of recovery if a Tommy John operation was necessary and he would be pushing 40 when he returned.

Citing his age and extensive battles with injuries over 14 seasons pitching for the Yokohama BayStars of Japan, Saito has said that the end of his career could be near.

"I want to play as long as I can," Saito said in May, "but I'm always thinking that my next game could be my last."

The obvious choice to move into the crucial position as closer would be Jonathan Broxton, he of the 100 mph fastball.

But who would replace Broxton, who has a 3.40 ERA and 46 strikeouts in 39.2 innings, as the Dodgers' eighth-inning man.

Manager Joe Torre said that Hong-Chih Kuo had the mental makeup for the job, but admitted that the left-hander's history of injuries made him weary of burdening him with a heavy workload. Joe Beimel is also a candidate, Torre said.

Saito is 3-3 with 17 saves and a 2.18 earned-run average in 39 appearances. He has saved 80 games in his three seasons with the Dodgers, including 39 last year, when he was an All-Star.

After starring for Yokohama in the Japanese Central League for 14 seasons, Saito was determined attempt to pitch in the Major Leagues. Some in the Dodgers front office were less than interested in the 35-year-old but scouting guru signed him quickly after seeing video of him pitching

He signed a minor league contract and was invited to spring trailing as a non-roster player. He didn't make the staff and opened the season at Las Vegas but was recalled to replace Eric Gagné on the roster.

The oldest rookie in Dodgers history worked his way into the closer slot, converted 24 of 26 save opportunities as well as a 2.07 earned run average, ninth lowest among Dodger pitchers with 60 or more appearances. He finished seventh in the Rookie of the Year balloting and eighth in the Cy Young Award voting.

He was named to the N.L. All-Star team in 2007, the eighth oldest player to ever be chosen, and finished the season with a 1.40 earned run average.

He came into the 2008 season with 63 saves, 185 strikeouts (and only 36 walks) in 142.2 innings (11.68 per nine innings) and a stunning 1.77 ERA.

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