Saito fine after bullpen session

Saito fine after bullpen session

VERO BEACH, Fla. -- Dodgers All-Star closer Takashi Saito cleared a key hurdle in his recovery from a strained calf muscle Monday, throwing 23 pain-free pitches in a Dodgertown bullpen session.

Manager Joe Torre and pitching coach Rick Honeycutt stayed behind to watch the session after the team buses left for Monday's game against the Orioles in Fort Lauderdale. The 38-year-old Saito complained of discomfort during a similar session last Thursday, and Torre wanted to be sure there was no repeat of that.

"He's fine," said Torre. "Good news for us, good news for him."

Saito said the soreness in his right calf was gone and he was able to use all of his pitches. Torre said Saito will participate in pitchers' fielding practice Tuesday and throw to hitters Wednesday or Thursday. His first game action would likely come over the weekend, assuming there is no residual discomfort.

"I'm more worried about after a couple of days, will my calf hold up?" Saito said.

Saito was slowed last year by a similar injury in another part of the calf. But last year, he was able to make his first exhibition game appearance March 7. He was reluctant to compare his progress this spring with last spring.

"Obviously, I'm not in a game yet," he said. "It's hard to judge."

Saito also couldn't say whether he'll be ready for Opening Day in three weeks.

"Obviously, that is a big concern, to get ready," he said. "That said, I have to take time to heal and not rush and be held back even longer. I have to concentrate on healing my calf."

After the bullpen session, Torre and Honeycutt drove to Ft. Lauderdale to rejoin the club for the game with the Orioles.

Ken Gurnick is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.