The smile on Takashi Saito's face needed no translation.
The reliever, who had been progressing slowly in his recovery from a sprained ligament in his right elbow, said Monday that he fully expected to be the Dodgers' closer again in 2008 after accelerating his comeback bid in recent days.
"I'm very confident I'm going to be on the mound this season, whether it be next week or the week after that," Saito said through an interpreter.
Saito, who last pitched for the Dodgers on July 12, experienced a breakthrough Sunday during a bullpen session when he felt renewed confidence in his fastball. He started throwing breaking pitches Monday and said he would incorporate them into simulated games in the coming days.
Asked how he was able to recuperate so quickly from an injury that he once thought might require season-ending surgery, Saito cracked another smile: "I didn't do anything illegal. That's one thing I can tell you."
Jones returns . . . sort of
Andruw Jones was activated from the disabled list and took batting practice at Dodger Stadium, but that might be as close as the outfielder gets to game action for a while. Manager Joe Torre said Jones was still suffering from a sore right knee that he recently irritated on a rehabilitation assignment at triple-A Las Vegas. Although Jones played several games at first base with the 51s, Torre said he didn't envision using Jones in place of James Loney.
"We're looking for people who can help us," Torre said.
As expected, the Dodgers activated outfielder Delwyn Young and pitcher Scott Proctor from the disabled list. They also called up outfielder Jason Repko and pitchers Eric Stultz and James McDonald from Las Vegas on the first day rosters could expand to 40 players.
Outfielder Andre Ethier is expected to leave the team for several days this month to be with his wife, Maggie, for the birth of the couple's first child, Torre said. Ethier declined to provide the expected delivery date or otherwise address the situation. "That's personal stuff," he said. . . . Angel Berroa started a third consecutive game at shortstop, in part because Nomar Garciaparra was hitting .176 in 17 career at-bats against San Diego starter Chris Young. Berroa finished one for four with a run-scoring double and Garciaparra popped out to second baseman Matt Antonelli as a pinch-hitter in the eighth inning. . . . Torre and trainer Stan Conte consulted with Russell Martin after the catcher's back spasms acted up running the bases in the seventh inning, but Martin said afterward that he was fine. . . . Torre reiterated that the Dodgers "were certainly not counting on" Brad Penny pitching again this season because the right-hander had not progressed to throwing off a mound in his recovery from shoulder inflammation. . . . Any chance of Jason Schmidt returning this month from shoulder surgery ended Monday when the right-hander was scratched from his scheduled appearance with Las Vegas.