LOS ANGELES -- A year ago, Takashi Saito came to the Dodgers as a relatively unknown starting pitcher from Japan. Now, with almost two seasons under his belt, he is recognized as one of the premier closers in the game.
Saito, who was named to his first All-Star team this season after recording 23 saves in the first half of the 2007 campaign, was perfect in the month of August, converting all 10 of his save opportunities to earn DHL's Major League Baseball Delivery Man of the Month Award.
The 37-year-old from Miyagi, Japan, was lights out for the Dodgers, posting a 0.68 ERA and allowing just one earned run in 14 games. The righty struck out 21 batters while allowing just seven hits in 13 1/3 innings.
"Takashi's been throwing for a long time," said catcher Russell Martin. "He's really polished as a pitcher. He has real good command of all his pitches. He can throw the backdoor slider, breaking ball, two different fastballs -- his two-seamer has a little bit of run and sink to it. He mixes all his pitches and keeps hitters off balance."
On the season, Saito is 1-0 with 37 saves, 71 strikeouts and 1.29 ERA in 56 games. He has blown just three saves in 2007, and dating back to last year, Saito has converted 61 saves in 66 chances.
His 1.29 ERA is the lowest among pitchers with at least 50 innings pitched, and his 37 saves is tied for fourth in the Senior Circuit.
"Sammy" Saito, as he is known in the Dodgers clubhouse, has made a name for himself with his no-nonsense approach when he appears in the ninth inning. Saito has allowed just nine walks this season, which is best among the top five closers in the Majors.
"I hardly ever, in the middle of an inning, go talk to him. Usually it's 1-2-3, inning over," Martin said. "When I do -- two, three times a year -- it's something simple, like, 'Let's keep it down.' He's very intense. It's awesome working with him."
It may be awesome for Martin, but for the opposing team it's a nightmare. Saito proved that when he converted five consecutive saves from Aug. 15-23, helping the Dodgers climb back into the National League Wild Card race.
Saito may not be flashy -- an occasional fist pump is about all he'll show when he strikes out the last batter of the inning -- but according to manager Grady Little, he sure has been dependable.
"He has great work ethic, he's in great shape and he's done the job for us out of the bullpen," Little said. "We're just glad he's one of us."
Jayson Addcox is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.