Saito, left off the current roster because of mechanical problems, came out of a 40-pitch, all-fastball bullpen session Friday feeling well, with pitching coach Rick Honeycutt reporting improvement in the pitcher's command.
The Dodgers are convinced that the two months Saito took off healed his partially torn right elbow ligament, but left him rusty with bad mechanics.
"He's been pulling his fastball a bit, which takes off the velocity and affects control," Honeycutt said. "I don't think the elbow is the issue. It's more about balance and how he uses his legs. It's a miracle he's pitching with what he has. This is a lot like Spring Training, but it's the postseason and we don't have the luxury of working into it. It's my belief that the four-seam is still his No. 1 pitch and everything else works off that."
Saito will fly back to Los Angeles with the team after Friday's Game 2 and throw a bullpen session or simulated game over the weekend. After that, Saito's schedule depends on what happens in the series with the Phillies, but the Dodgers are hopeful he would be available for the World Series, if they get that far.
Hong-Chih Kuo, who returned from his own elbow problems to take Saito's spot on the roster, pitched an effective 1-2-3 inning in Game 1 and played catch during batting practice before Game 2 Friday. Torre initially said he would not use Kuo on consecutive days to protect the left elbow but backed off that position and said he would check with the left-hander after batting practice.
"I'm not anticipating using him back-to-back, but there are no restrictions on him," said Torre, who said Kuo's breaking pitches were sharper than he expected.
If Kuo is unavailable for any game in the series, Torre said Joe Beimel would be his primary left-hander to face the Phillies' potent left-handed bats, but he would use Clayton Kershaw earlier in the game.
Torre said Kershaw remains an option to start Game 4, even though conventional wisdom indicates it would be Game 1 starter Derek Lowe on three days' rest. Greg Maddux is another option, although Torre seems to prefer keeping Maddux in the bullpen because of his versatility, especially with Kuo's durability in question.
"I think he's [Maddux] having a lot of fun with this stuff -- once he learns to handle the stress he'll be fine," Torre joked of Maddux and the unfamiliar relief role. "Look at the pitchers that have had success. Guys throw 95 [mph] and they get all the attention, but the ones that change speeds and throw strikes have all the success."