I loved this guy. Takashi Saito came over from the Japanese Central League as a star reliever in the twilight of his career. He was 36 years old, having spent the previous 13 season with the Yokohama BayStars, and would for the first time test free agency in the hopes of playing in America. The Dodgers did their scouting and decided to take a flyer on the old pro. Their decision to sign Saito would pay immediate dividends.
Takashi came into Spring Training in 2006 with a minor league contract in-hand. Unexpectedly, he won a job in the bullpen and would soon take over closing duties by mid-May. By the end of his first Major League season he completed 24 saves with a 2.07 ERA. Not too bad from someone thought to be too old to make any impact. The next season he again beat all of our expectations by closing out 39 games with an infinitesimal ERA of 1.40.
Since this time he had bounced around from the Red Sox, Braves, and Brewers, and remained competitive until this past season with the Diamondbacks. In 2012 he pitched his way up Arizona's minor league system while battling an injury until his late call-up, but ended up allowing 9 runs in just 12 innings of work. Today, Saito is a free agent. I am uncertain if at the age of 42 whether another team will sign him.
Featured here is a 2006 Upper Deck SPx Rookie Signatures card of Takashi Saito in my collection.
* Please follow on twitter @ernestreyes *
* Like Dodgers Blue Heaven on facebook *
* Dodgers Blue Heaven home page *