Saito shows encouraging signs

Saito shows encouraging signs

PHOENIX -- Dodgers closer Takashi Saito was able to throw a 26-pitch simulated game on Tuesday, easing concerns over stiffness in his left buttocks that forced him to miss a scheduled game appearance Monday night.

"He still has a little tightness, but he asked to throw more pitches than we had scheduled [20]," said manager Joe Torre, who watched on a back field as Saito faced teammates Mark Sweeney, Jason Repko, Angel Chavez and Rene Rivera just before the Dodgers' final Cactus League game with the Brewers.

"I don't think it affects his ability to pitch. It's not pain, just a little tight. He'll get in a game on Thursday [at Anaheim] and Saturday [at the Coliseum against Boston], as opposed to trying to repeat it. We'll see how it feels tomorrow."

Saito, 38, has pitched only four competitive innings this Spring, having been slowed by a previous calf muscle strain, and he has a 9.00 ERA in the small sample. He's clearly behind for Opening Day, having been unable to pitch on consecutive days, so his use in early games figures to be spaced.

"No question there's concern this close to the end," Torre said before Saito threw. "He hasn't had a full complement of work to this point. We'll have to make sure we don't ignore that fact. Even though relievers don't need to go six innings, he'll get whatever he needs to be sharp."

Torre said he assumed Jonathan Broxton would inherit save situations if Saito was unavailable.

Also throwing an extended simulated game was fifth-starter candidate Chan Ho Park, who threw 60 pitches. Park is likely to pitch again on Sunday with Esteban Loaiza, the favorite to win the job, in part because of his guaranteed contract. Park has a 1.49 ERA this Spring, Loaiza 4.20.

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