Saito, Penny making strides

Saito, Penny making strides

LOS ANGELES -- Already pleased with the outcome of Jeff Kent's knee surgery, the Dodgers on Tuesday received further good news from injured pitchers Takashi Saito and Brad Penny, both coming out of bullpen sessions with renewed optimism that they will be back this season.

Saito, out since July 13 with a partially torn elbow ligament, threw fastballs off a mound with no problem, and manager Joe Torre indicated Saito could be active by the end of next week after a bullpen session with breaking balls on Thursday and a simulated game on Saturday.

Torre said once Saito is comfortable throwing all of his pitches, Torre will be comfortable returning Saito to his closer role. Jonathan Broxton has converted 11-of-13 save opportunities since Saito was injured.

More surprising were the results of Penny's first mound session since returning to the disabled list on Aug. 14. Throwing only fastballs, Penny said the discomfort that has lingered in his shoulder since his initial injury in June was gone.

"I was only throwing about 60 or 70 percent, but the ball was coming out real easy," said Penny, the Opening Day starter who has one win in the last four months.

He likely will take two days off before his next bullpen session. As a starter, Penny's return is more problematic because of the difficulty building up arm strength without the availability of a rehab assignment in the Minor Leagues, where play has concluded.

One option is for Penny to return as a reliever. But pitching coach Rick Honeycutt wouldn't rule out the possibility that, with an expanded pitching staff, Penny could be given a start and allowed to go as long or as short as he's able.

"We could set the game up that way," Honeycutt said. "What I liked is that he seemed more confident and he used his body better. He had good rotation and was consistent with his arm slot. We got positive feedback from him. We just have to keep progressing, because we don't have much margin if anything goes backward."

Penny's injury led the Dodgers to acquire Greg Maddux, who is 1-2 in three starts.

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