DENVER -- Takashi Saito is expecting to be activated from the 60-day disabled list and was told by Manager Joe Torre that he will pitch today for the first time in more than two months if the right situation presents itself.
Saito last pitched on July 12, the night the 38-year-old closer went down with a sprained elbow ligament that threatened his career.
Watching the Dodgers play without him over the last two months, Saito said he was reminded of his first year in the majors. Sent down to triple-A Las Vegas at the end of spring training in 2006, Saito was in the stands at Dodger Stadium with his family for an exhibition game.
An injury-prone pitcher in Japan, Saito said he told his family that his dream was to throw from the mound in that stadium once. Saito said that feeling stayed with him even after he was called up.
"Right when I started to take being here for granted, I got this injury and it reminded me of how I used to feel," Saito said. "I'd like to think this happened for a reason. I think I'll be more grateful every time I go out to the mound."
Torre said that he would like Saito to pitch every other day until he works his way back into the closer's role.
Though Saito pitched in two simulated games in the last week and experienced no discomfort, he said he wouldn't feel assured that everything is fine until he pitches in a game.
The Dodgers are among the teams that have scouted Japanese amateur pitcher Junichi Tazawa, who said this week that he would bypass the draft of his native professional league and sign with a major league club.
A team source who spoke on the condition of anonymity said the Dodgers were taking a wait-and-see approach with the 22-year-old right-hander who pitches for Eneos Oil of the Japanese corporate league, as they've heard that he has already decided to sign with the Boston Red Sox. Tazawa is expected to command a signing bonus of at least $1.5 million.
Tazawa's decision has sent shock waves through the Japanese league, which previously hasn't had to deal with top amateur players leaving the country.
Because the Dodgers won a coin flip with the Arizona Diamondbacks, they would host a one-game playoff at Dodger Stadium between the teams if one is necessary to determine the NL West champion. The game would be on Sept. 29. . . . Manny Ramirez, who had 14 home runs and 40 runs batted in in his first 38 games with the Dodgers, is the first midseason acquisition to collect 14 home runs and 40 RBIs in the first 40 games with his new team since 1949, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. Hank Sauer, who was traded by Cincinnati that season, had 15 home runs and 47 RBIs in his first 40 games with the Chicago Cubs. . . . Hong-Chih Kuo, who received a cortisone injection in his arthritic left elbow Thursday, was unavailable out of the bullpen. Torre said he expected him to be back today. . . . Nomar Garciaparra started at first base in place of James Loney, who entered the game one for 15 lifetime in his career against Rockies starter Jeff Francis. . . . Jeff Kent has started hitting drills in Los Angeles and could take batting practice at Dodger Stadium when the team returns from Pittsburgh next week. . . . September call-up James McDonald was named the organization's minor league pitcher of the year for the second consecutive season. Shortstop Ivan DeJesus Jr. was named the top position player.