01/10/2009 2:04 PM ET
Red Sox sign free agent righthanded pitcher Takashi Saito to one-year contract with option for 2010
BOSTON, MA -- The Boston Red Sox today announced that the team has signed free agent righthanded pitcher Takashi Saito to a one-year contract through the 2009 season with a club option for 2010. No further terms were disclosed.
The announcement was made by Executive Vice President/General Manager Theo Epstein.
Saito, 38, went 4-4 with 18 saves and a 2.49 ERA in 45 relief appearances for the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2008. He struck out 60 and walked just 16 over 47.0 innings but missed nearly two months on the disabled list.
The righthander began the season going 3-3 with 17 saves and a 2.18 ERA through his first 39 games. He converted 15 of 16 save opportunities from April 29 to July 9, including each of his last nine during that stretch, before landing on the 15-day D.L. on July 18 with a right elbow sprain. On September 3, Saito was transferred to the 60-day D.L., where he stayed until September 13 before making seven more appearances for the Dodgers over the remainder of the season, including one in the NLDS against the Cubs.
In 2007, he tallied a 2-1 record and finished fourth in the N.L. with a career-high 39 saves, earning a spot on his first All-Star squad. He logged a 1.40 ERA, the second lowest among qualifying major league relievers behind Seattle's J.J. Putz (1.38), and trailed only Boston's Jonathan Papelbon (.146) among that group with a .151 opponents batting average against.
Saito debuted for the Dodgers in 2006, going 6-2 with a 2.07 ERA in 72 relief outings. He led all major league relievers with 107 strikeouts in just 78.1 innings of work and tied for ninth in the N.L. with a club rookie record 24 saves. He finished among the top 10 in N.L. Rookie of the Year (7th) and Cy Young Award (8th) voting.
For his major league career, he is 12-7 with a 1.95 ERA in 189.2 innings over 180 games. He has converted 81 of 91 career save opportunities for an 89.0 percent success rate, the fifth-highest in baseball since the save became an official statistic in 1969 (min. 80 saves). He is one of two pitchers ever to record at least 40 relief appearances and an ERA under 2.50 in each of his first three major league seasons, along with Red Sox Hall of Famer Dick Radatz (1962-64).
Prior to joining the Dodgers, Saito pitched 14 seasons in the Japanese Central League, going 87-80 with 48 saves and a 3.81 ERA in 339 career games/178 starts for Yokohama Baystars. There he earned All-Star honors four times and was named the 1998 Comeback Player of the Year after undergoing shoulder surgery the previous season. He attended Tottoku Fukushi University before being selected in the first round of the Central League draft by the then Taiyo Whales, which later became the Baystars.
Today's move puts Boston's major league roster at 40 players.