Saito, who turns 40 in February, has
83 saves in four major league seasons after a long career in Japan. He
made the NL All-Star team in 2007, when he had 39 saves for the Los
Angeles Dodgers. Last season, the right-hander went 3-3 with two saves
and a 2.43 ERA in a setup role for the Boston Red Sox.
Saito is expected to remain in that
spot with the Braves, who signed closer Billy Wagner to a $7 million,
one-year deal on Wednesday, though he might get an occasional chance to
General manager Frank Wren was
determined to restock a bullpen that had depth in 2009 with Rafael
Soriano (27 saves) and Mike Gonzalez (10 saves) sharing the closer
duties, while Peter Moylan set a franchise record with 87 appearances.
Soriano and Gonzalez are free agents and won't be back.
"Adding Takashi to our staff gives us
even more depth in the bullpen as we head into the 2010 season," Wren
said in a statement. "While we primarily expect him to pitch in the
eighth inning, this allows us to have another pitcher with closer
ability who can complement Billy Wagner, similar to the depth we had in
Braves manager Bobby Cox remembers Saito from his successful tenure with the Dodgers.
"Takashi really shortens the game,"
Cox said. "We knew we had to score runs early because he was lights out
when he came in late in the game."
Saito will be the second Japanese
player to suit up for the Braves. Kenshin Kawakami spent most of last
season in the starting rotation, going 7-12 with a 3.86 ERA.
The agreement with Saito likely
completes the Braves pitching staff for 2010. They also re-signed Tim
Hudson, giving Atlanta six established starters, one of whom will
almost certainly be dealt for offensive help.
Wren has said the team is in the
market for a power-hitting outfielder or first baseman, perhaps both,
heading into next week's winter meetings.
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