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|#40 Takashi Saito|
|Atlanta Braves - Relief Pitcher|
|Bats: Right||Throws: Left|
|Height: 6'1||Weight: 202 lbs|
|Born on February 14, 1970 in Miyagi, Japan|
|April 9, 2006 for the Los Angeles Dodgers|
|Picked no. N/A in round N/A of the N/A draft by the not drafted.|
|Updated December 7, 2009|
|Career Highlights and Awards|
Takashi Saito (斎藤 隆 Saitō Takashi?, born February 14, 1970 in Sendai, Miyagi Prefecture, Japan) is a Major League Baseball relief pitcher for the Atlanta Braves. His nicknames include "Sammy", bestowed upon him by outfielder Andre Ethier, and "The Mole", due to the holes he digs in the pitcher's mound using his cleats.
Saito previously pitched for the Yokohama BayStars in the Japanese Central League, compiling a record of 87-80 over 13 seasons. His success as a closer down the stretch in the 2006 season resulted in an 8th place finish in National League Rookie of the Year award, receiving two third place votes (Florida Marlins shortstop Hanley Ramirez won the award). This success also resulted in an 8th place finish in the National League Cy Young Award, receiving a single third place vote.
Saito attended Tohoku Fukushi University in Sendai, the same school former Seattle Mariners closer Kazuhiro Sasaki attended. Saito was originally a position player, but he became a pitcher in his second year in college. He was drafted in the first round by the Yokohama Taiyo Whales in 1991. He was an all-star a total of four times while in Japan (1994, 1996, 1999, 2001), and he led the Central League in strikeouts with 206 in 1996. He was found to have a dislocated cartilage in his right elbow in the spring of 1997 and had to undergo surgery, subsequently spending the rest of the season rehabbing. He cameback in 1998, winning 13 games while posting a 2.94 ERA. His team, the BayStars, also won the Japanese championship series for the second time in 38 years that year. He became the teams closer after incumbent Kazuhiro Sasaki left the BayStars to join the Mariners in 2000. His record was 7-1 with 27 saves, and a 1.67 ERA in 2001. Saito returned to his starting role in 2003, but did not win more than 6 games in a season between 2003 and 2005.
Los Angeles DodgersEdit
Saito signed a minor league deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers as a 36-year-old rookie in 2006, and surprised fans by making 24 saves, posting a 2.07 ERA, and striking out 107 batters (the most among relievers). He made first Major League appearance on April 9, 2006, against the Philadelphia Phillies. He pitched 2/3 of an inning without giving up any runs or hits. He soon stepped in the closer role recently vacated by fan favorite Eric Gagné, recording his first Major League save on May 15, 2006, against the Colorado Rockies.
Saito threw a 159 km/h (99 mph) fastball on June 26, 2007, which is claimed to be the all-time record for a Japanese-born Major League pitcher. He was named to the National League All-Star team for the first time in 2007. He was also named closer of the month for August 2007.
Saito had his first career major league at-bat on April 23, 2008. On July 18, 2008, Saito was placed on the 15-day disabled list with a sprained ligament in his elbow. He was activated on September 13.
Saito was not tendered a contract prior to the 2009 season and became a free agent.
Boston Red SoxEdit
On January 10, 2009, Saito signed a one-year contract with the Boston Red Sox with a team option for 2010. He spent the season as the Red Sox primary set-up man, as well as spelling closer Jonathan Papelbon from time to time. He finished the season with a 2.43 ERA and 2 saves. After the season, the Red Sox declined his $6 million option and he became a free agent.
Saito has three pitches: a tight fastball in the low to mid 90 mph range (which tops out at about 97 mph, but normally goes around 93), a sharp slider that he uses as a strikeout pitch, and a slow curveball that he uses as a sort of changeup. While playing as a starter in Japan, Saito had a tendency to give up a lot of home runs on pitches up in the strike zone. Hideki Matsui (currently on the New York Yankees) played especially well against Saito, hitting over 15 home runs off him in Japan.
Much of Saito's current success comes from the exceptional control he has of his pitches. Saito is now able to throw his sharp slider off the outside part of the plate for strikes, and his deceptive pitching forms causes hitters to be late on his fastball. Saito has also experimented with a shuuto (shootball), which he developed while playing in Japan.
Japanese Professional Leagues
- 339 Games
- 87 Wins
- 80 Losses
- 48 Saves
- 1284 Strikeouts
- 3.80 ERA
Season by Season
Last update: 26 July 2008
|1992||Yokohama Taiyo Whales||22||6||0||2||0||16.0||15||21||8.44|
|2006||Los Angeles Dodgers||36||72||6||2||24||78.1||18||107||2.07|
|2007||Los Angeles Dodgers||37||63||2||1||39||64.1||10||78||1.40|
|2008||Los Angeles Dodgers||38||39||3||3||17||41.1||11||53||2.18|
*Bold = led league
- ↑  "2006 NL Rookie of the Year" Retrieved on 26 February 2007.
- ↑  "2006 NL Cy Young Award" Retrieved on 24 July 2007.
- ↑ ドジャース斎藤 黒田を“突き放す”宣言 (Japanese). Sponichi (2008-02-05). Retrieved on 2008-05-10.
- ↑ Dodgers make Saito a free agent
- ↑ Red Sox sign free agent righthanded pitcher Takashi Saito to one-year contract with option for 2010