amboy: Kobanwa. How are you approaching your second year with the Dodgers?
Saito: As you probably know, right now I'm battling a right calf injury, but the plan is to have the calf heal 100 percent before I go ahead and participate in drills at full speed.
As far as my pitching on the mound is concerned, that is going as planned.
guzhome: Hi, Takashi. My husband and I are looking forward to this season. We are excited that you will be the closer. How does it feel to play such an important role?
Saito: Being the closer for the Dodgers is an honor because, for a team that has traditionally been competitive, before I usually come in the game, there are 24 outs that precede me and so to get the three toughest outs at the end of the game in the ninth inning or extra innings, is truly a role that I enjoy.
It is a tough role that all closers must begin preparing for at the start of Spring Training.
stephshane: Do you miss home (Japan)?
Saito: Now, because I just got here, I don't really miss home. But last year when I signed with the Dodgers on a Minor League contract, I received the blessing from my family to play one year in the United States, and because I received that blessing from them, psychologically, I did not miss Japan as much as I thought I would.
bluein07: Hey, Saito. Are you going to have the club play a song when you emerge from the bullpen?
Saito: I haven't decided on a song yet, but if the fans want to suggest any songs that might be appropriate, I would be open to hearing what they have to say.
bigfred_07: How is your English coming along, and how is your arm feeling?
Saito: First, in terms of my arm, I have no problems or issues, whatsoever. In terms of my English, I feel a lot stronger comprehending the language through listening rather than speaking. I still have a tough time when people talk really fast.
amboy: Kobanwa. What are your goals for the 2007 season?
Saito: Last year, our team made the playoffs but we lost in the playoffs, so my goal is to help the team get back to the playoffs and to the World Series.
seane13: I heard in Japan you were a closer, reliever, and a starter. Would you be okay if the Dodgers asked you to pitch middle relief or start to get more innings?
Saito: I'll do whatever the Dodgers ask me to do. Whatever role the Dodgers feel I can be best used to contribute to wins is what I want to do.
amboy: What are your thoughts about Barry Bonds, and how would you approach him if he was on the verge of breaking the record?
Saito: First off, I would listen to what the coaching staff has to say about how they want to pitch him and that would depend largely upon the game situation. If it's just me on my own, having to decide how to pitch to Bonds, my best pitches are fastball and slider and I wouldn't change how I approach other hitters. I would pitch to my strengths and not diverge from what has gotten hitters out in the past.
dodgerfanrob22: In which ballpark is your favorite to play?
Saito: Dodger Stadium in America. In Japan, it would be Yokohama Stadium.
bluebleeder1977: I read last year that you wear different kind of socks, what kind are they?
Saito: I wear socks that resemble gloves in that each toe goes into a different sleeve of the sock. It started way back in Japan for me. I feel very comfortable in the socks and I think it has something to do with the transfer of power that I get from my legs, starting way at the bottom in my toes, through my delivery.
Also, I don't wear those socks when I go out, only when I play baseball.
seane13: I just want to ask, what does kobanwa mean?
Saito: Kobanwa means "good evening."
patrickS: What is the best advice a pitching coach has given you?
Saito: I have had a lot of good pitching coaches during my career and because of that, there is not a number one thing that sticks out in my mind in terms of advice. But, when I was in Japan and I was converted from a starter to a reliever, I did learn some very valuable things about the mental aspects of pitching as a reliever vs. a starter.
I'm very thankful to the Dodger pitching coaches, Rick Honeycutt and Dan Warthen, for going over the opposing hitters because before playing in the United States, I didn't know anything about them so their advice is very valuable on a daily basis.
hikarichan: Who are your best friends on the team so far?
Saito: Everybody on the team is great. But if I had to single out a few people, it would be Brad Penny, Andre Ethier, Joe Beimel and Tim Hamulack. We're the ones who seem to talk the most.
DodgerFan: Do you feel that there is any advantage/disadvantage for a pitcher who comes from Japan? And if so, why, specifically?
Saito: I would say it's about even because if a batter has never faced a pitcher before, it's usually the pitcher's advantage. But in my case, I didn't know anything about the hitters, so it was the batter's advantage. So, I think those cancel out any advantage on either side.
DodgerFan: Having spent some time in L.A., do you feel that it is the kind of place where many Japanese players could come and feel comfortable?
Saito: Los Angeles is the best city to live in for a player coming from Japan. It's probably the easiest city to make the cultural transition because of the large Japanese community.
Although the traffic is bad, the times when I drive to the ballpark and when I drive home, there is no traffic.
iloveraffy: Who is the funniest guy on the team?
Saito: I think Brad Penny is the funniest guy on the team.
raydodger: Who was your favorite player growing up?
Saito: When I was growing up, my favorite player was Tatsunori Hara. He is currently the manager of the Yomiuri Giants.
When I was a kid, I was an infielder and a hitter and he was the premiere hitting infielder at the time.
amboy: What are your favorite non-Japanese restaurants in the States? And what is your favorite American food?
Saito: When I'm not eating Japanese food, I usually go to a Chinese restaurant. But my favorite American food, specifically, is In N Out hamburgers.
boysnblue5: I've noticed that nomar
you and Nomar Garciaparra have a special handshake after each Dodger win -- what is that about?
Saito: Nomar and I have a special bond. Last year, when I came from Los Angeles to Florida, we rode on the same plane and when we got to baggage claim, he got me a luggage cart. For him to get a luggage cart for someone he didn't even know, speaks to what type of person Nomar is.
I believe that there is something almost mystical between us because in Houston, when I came in and did not do well, Nomar hit a grand slam to win the game. In the game that the Dodgers ended up hitting four home runs, I'm the guy who didn't pitch well in that game either and Nomar ended up winning the game with a home run.
seane13: Are there any other sports you like besides baseball?
Saito: Other than baseball, I like to watch tennis because recently my wife and two daughters have taken up an interest in that sport.
hikarichan: What are some of your favorite things to do in the offseason (besides spending time with your family)?
Saito: I like meeting up with my high school and college friends during the offseason and catching up. I don't really have any more hobbies, to be honest.
Moderator: One last question before Takashi has to finish the chat.
johnnysak: Who is the hardest player to get out in the U.S.? Which of your teammates would you not like to face if they were on another team?
Saito: As far as my teammates are concerned, I would say that I wouldn't want to face Nomar and Rafael Furcal. Everyone is a good hitter in the big leagues, but if I had to pick one hitter who is the toughest out, I would say it would be Albert Pujols.
Saito: Thanks to all the fans for participating. I just want to let you all know that I will do my best to help the team win. I'm looking forward to hearing what the fans have to say about what song the team should play when I enter the game. Other than that, I hope we can all go to the World Series together.