Dodgers sign Saito to Minor League deal

Dodgers sign Japan's Saito to Minor League deal

LOS ANGELES -- Takashi Saito, a right-hander who once was one of the best pitchers in Japan, signed a Minor League contract with the Dodgers on Tuesday and will be invited to Major League training camp.

Saito, who turned 36 on Tuesday, was a four-time All-Star for Yokohama, where he was a dominant starting pitcher in his early years and became a top closer. But he had fallen on hard times over the last three seasons. He was 3-4 with no saves and a 3.82 ERA in 21 games in 2005, with 93 strikeouts in 106 innings.

"Takashi Saito is a very versatile pitcher who has been a starter, reliever and closer," said Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti. "We believe his experience over 14 years in Japan will give him the opportunity to make the Dodgers in 2006."

Saito is the fifth player from Japan acquired by the Dodgers since the team first signed pitcher Hideo Nomo to a contract in 1995. The others are left-handed pitcher Kazuhisa Ishii, right-handed pitcher Masao Kida and infielder Norihiro Nakamura.

Saito brings the total of non-roster players invited to camp to 17.

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