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Saturday, March 5, 2011

Previewing the 2011 Season: Takashi Saito

The Brewers host the Los Angeles Angels today at 2:05 in a game that reunites manager Ron Roenicke with the club in which he spent the last 11 years. Newly acquired Brewers setup man, Takashi Saito, is scheduled to pitch after his first outing was delayed this week due to hamstring tightness. What a better time, I thought, to introduce Saito to my readers.

Not many players enter Major League Baseball as a rookie at the age of 36. But Takashi Saito did just that five years ago when he arrived from Japan and debuted with the Dodgers. He appeared in 72 games that year and finished the season with a 2.07 ERA, .906 WHIP, 24 saves, and a 4.65 strikeout/walk ratio.

The closer-turned-setup man played three seasons with the Dodgers, one with the Red Sox, and spent last year setting up Billy Wagner with the Braves. Saito holds incredible careers numbers (2.19 ERA, 1.022 WHIP) and even at age 41 is extremely tough to hit when healthy.

The key to his success in 2011 indeed banks on whether or not he can stay healthy over the course of the season. Even his injury-shortened 2010 season saw him post a sub-3.00 ERA, and Brewers officials apparently believe he's still got it heading into 2011. Roenicke will need to be careful using Saito, allowing him at least a day between outings and making sure his workload remains relatively light (he pitched only 56 innings in each of the past two seasons). His hamstring tightness this week unfortunately could be more serious than it seems, as he blamed his shoulder injury in 2010 on overthrowing after hurting his hamstring.

Still, Saito is a solid pickup who should be a reliable option to setup John Axford. If he stays healthy Brewers fans should enjoy watching the 41-year old veteran who has truly all but perfected his craft.

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