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Dodgers stick with Saito as closer

Dodgers stick with Saito as closer

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LOS ANGELES -- Takashi Saito did not exactly inspire confidence in Game 2 of the National League Division Series when he allowed hits to all three batters he faced, but manager Joe Torre still plans on using him as the Dodgers' ninth-inning man.

Saito missed two months after the All-Star break with a torn right elbow ligament and has been forced through an abbreviated Spring Training down the stretch, only saving one game in that time. But both Saito and Torre said the closer is just fine physically.

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He yielded a double to Derrek Lee, a single to Aramis Ramirez and a two-run double to Mark DeRosa after entering in the ninth inning of Game 2 with a 10-1 lead, throwing 13 pitches, before Torre called on Jonathan Broxton, who had been Los Angeles' closer in Saito's absence.

"When I saw that he was just having trouble locating last night, I just wanted to take him out as opposed to having him throw 25 or 30 pitches out there for no reason," Torre said. "I still have a great deal of confidence in handing him the ball if it's that kind of [closing] situation."

After the Dodgers clinched the division, Torre said he planned on making Saito his closer during the postseason, citing Saito's experience in that role the past three years in comparison to the 24-year-old Broxton.

"I'm just so grateful and appreciative of all the support that Joe has given me," said Saito, who may not be able to work on consecutive days even if he is the primary closer. "Also, if Joe is telling me that I can go in the ninth, then that means the whole team is behind me. I feel honored to be in the situation, and hopefully next time I'll have a better outing."

Saito struggled a bit during his September comeback without a Minor League rehab stint, going 1-1 with a 4.76 ERA in 5 2/3 innings over six appearances while lacking the typical zip on his fastball and sharpness of his slider at times.

Then he seemed to turn the corner when he saved the Dodgers' 2-1 win over the Giants on Sept. 27 with a perfect ninth, looking more like the pitcher who saved 17 games with a 2.18 ERA before the injury.

"That was definitely a confidence booster, but the person who pitched the San Francisco game and the person who pitched yesterday is the same person," Saito said. "I'm trying to close the gap as much as possible because I had two months of not pitching at all. I'm trying to squeeze all that time into right now, and I'm trying to do my best."

Added Torre, "It just didn't look like he was the same guy as Saturday [in San Francisco]. But checking with him, he didn't have any physical problems. I think maybe the score got in the way. That's just my feeling. Hopefully, that's the case."

In other bullpen news, Hong-Chih Kuo said he felt fine throwing on flat ground on Friday, but his mound session has been pushed back from Saturday to Sunday.

Kuo, who has pitched once since Sept. 7 after developing stiffness in his left triceps area, has undergone four elbow surgeries during his injury-plagued career.

This season has been a breakout year for Kuo, who emerged as the Dodgers' primary setup man in Saito's absence, compiling a 2.14 ERA and 96 strikeouts in 80 innings.

He is not on the Dodgers' playoff roster but could be added for the NL Championship Series if his arm is up for it and Los Angeles reaches that round.

Michael Schwartz is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

{"content":["division_series" ] }
{"content":["division_series" ] }
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