It wasn't exactly a long-awaited arrival for Diamondbacks fans, but the hometown nine might have gotten a boost to its bullpen with the activation of one-time All-Star Takashi Saito from the 15-day disabled list Saturday.
When Saito, 42, arrived in the U.S. major leagues in 2006, he made an immediate impact as the Los Angeles Dodgers' closer that year, saving 24 games with a 2.07 ERA. The following year, he was named an NL All-Star, but has since played for five different teams since 2008.
This year, it's the Diamondbacks for Saito, and calf and shoulder injuries have cost him the entire season up to this point. But he told manager Kirk Gibson he's ready to contribute now, and the Diamondbacks' taxed bullpen could use a veteran presence who knows how to get guys out.
After three different rehab stints with three of the D-backs' minor-league clubs, Saito has been added to the roster and Jonathan Albaladejo, called up just three days ago, is headed back to AAA Reno.
"He's had plenty of rehab work," Gibson said. "He's had some setbacks, but he's confident and feels ready to go. Said he's ready for better competition, and so I said 'Well, there's pretty good competition here.'"
Gibson said Saito told him he is 100 percent healthy. Initially, Gibson said, Saito will be likely used as a sixth- or seventh-inning reliever. If someone in the pen is unavailable, Saito could be used later in games.
"Every year he's ever pitched, he's had great results," Gibson said. "We're counting on that and when he tells us he's ready to pitch, that he'll understand how to navigate through a lineup."
Don't expect Saito to work more than an inning at a time, and perhaps not on back-to-back days at least for starters. But the guy has credentials. He's never had an ERA above 2.83 in six previous seasons.
Saito, who comes from one of the hardest-hit areas by the devastating tsunami in Japan in March 2011, Miyagi prefecture, will be the first-ever player of Japanese descent to pitch for the D-backs once he appears in a game.