Braves sign Takashi Saito

By Paul Newberry,
AP Sports Writer

ATLANTA (AP) — The

Braves made another move to strengthen their pitching staff Thursday,

agreeing to a one-year contract with right-handed reliever Takashi

Saito.

Saito, who turns 40 in February, has

83 saves in four major league seasons after a long career in Japan. He

made the NL All-Star team in 2007, when he had 39 saves for the Los

Angeles Dodgers. Last season, the right-hander went 3-3 with two saves

and a 2.43 ERA in a setup role for the Boston Red Sox.

Saito is expected to remain in that spot with the Braves, who signed

closer Billy Wagner to a $7 million, one-year deal on Wednesday, though

he might get an occasional chance to save games.

General manager Frank Wren was determined to restock a bullpen that had

depth in 2009 with Rafael Soriano (27 saves) and Mike Gonzalez (10

saves) sharing the closer duties, while Peter Moylan set a franchise

record with 87 appearances. Soriano and Gonzalez are free agents and

won’t be back.

“Adding Takashi to our staff

gives us even more depth in the bullpen as we head into the 2010

season,” Wren said in a statement. “While we primarily expect him to

pitch in the eighth inning, this allows us to have another pitcher with

closer ability who can complement Billy Wagner, similar to the depth we

had in 2009.”

Braves manager Bobby Cox remembers Saito from his successful tenure with the Dodgers.

“Takashi really shortens the game,” Cox said. “We knew we had to score

runs early because he was lights out when he came in late in the game.”

Saito will be the second Japanese player to suit up for the Braves.

Kenshin Kawakami spent most of last season in the starting rotation,

going 7-12 with a 3.86 ERA.

The agreement

with Saito likely completes the Braves pitching staff for 2010. They

also re-signed Tim Hudson, giving Atlanta six established starters, one

of whom will almost certainly be dealt for offensive help.

Wren has said the team is in the market for a power-hitting outfielder

or first baseman, perhaps both, heading into next week’s winter

meetings.

Received 12/03/09 04:29 pm ET