Saito closer to returning to closer

Saito closer to returning to closer

LOS ANGELES -- With a scoreless inning Saturday night, Takashi Saito took another step toward regaining his closer role, a position manager Joe Torre would ultimately like him to reassume.

Saito saved 17 games in 20 chances before a torn right elbow ligament forced him out of action for two months after the All-Star break. Jonathan Broxton has filled the role since then, working as a closer for the first time in his young career and converting 14 of 16 saves.

"I think [Saito's] more emotionally equipped for that because he's done it," Torre said. "That's been his primarily role. I'm comfortable with Brox, but again, once Saito gets there, we have a little more length. Brox, I think, has done a fine job in the closer's spot."

Saito picked up his first win since May 25 with his scoreless seventh inning on Saturday, an outing Torre called the best of his three since coming off the disabled list, because he pitched with a "more relaxed feel."

Torre had originally said he wanted to give Saito Sunday off, but he ended up throwing him in back-to-back contests for the first time since his DL return when the game went 11 innings.

Saito ended up picking up the loss when he allowed the only run of the game off three singles in the final frame.

"Saito was fine today," Torre said after the game. "He told me right away that he was available; we didn't just do that because it was extra innings. Unfortunately, [they] ran his pitch count up. I thought he threw better than [Saturday]."

Torre was unsure if Chan Ho Park would be available after tossing 1 2/3 innings on Thursday and pitching to three batters without recording an out on Saturday. Park walked two of those batters and struggled to find the strike zone.

"He just couldn't locate," Torre said. "Like the harder he tried, the worse it got. This time of year will turn the volume up a little bit. This time of year you have the tendency to get a little anxious, and the teams that you're playing aren't going anywhere, and they sort of play off that."

Torre said Hong-Chih Kuo (triceps stiffness) "seems to be doing all right," but the club will not know for sure until he starts throwing on flat ground on Tuesday.

Brad Penny (right shoulder) threw a bullpen session on flat ground on Sunday and will throw off a mound soon if he comes out of that OK.

Michael Schwartz is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.