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07/17/08 9:18 PM ET
Saito focused on rehabbing elbow
Dodgers closer could still need surgery to repair sprain
By Ken Gurnick / MLB.com
PHOENIX -- Injured Dodgers closer Takashi Saito said he is "hopeful" he will return to the mound after a six-week rehabilitation for a sprained elbow ligament, but revealed that surgery hasn't been ruled out. "Yes, that is still an option. The possibility still exists and it may have to happen," Saito said through interpreter and director of Asian operations Acey Kohrogi on a conference call with reporters Thursday. "For now, I'm concentrating on the six-week rehab." Saito was injured while pitching in Saturday night's game with the Marlins. Team surgeon Neal ElAttrache diagnosed a ligament sprain, which is a stretching or tearing of the ligament that stabilizes the elbow. It is an injury that often results in what has become known as Tommy John elbow reconstruction, which requires a full year of rehabilitation. Saito, 38, said he has not considered retirement and has not consulted with any pitchers who have had similar injuries. "As far as my comeback and retirement, I have not thought about that at this time," he said. "My thought is how can I help the team by coming back as soon as I can? That's my focus. I have no interest in thinking about retirement from baseball at this time." He said doctors have ordered him to completely rest the elbow for 10 days, during which he's been given permission to return home to Japan to see his family. He said because he's not using the arm, "I don't feel any pain and don't know if it's good or bad. It's very difficult to determine if I'll be back in August but with positive thinking, I believe." Saito also was asked to comment on the Thursday announcement that former Dodgers pitcher and countryman Hideo Nomo had officially retired. "Although he's only one year older, he's kind of like a senior to me," said Saito. "He opened up baseball and the Dodgers as a pioneer, and I feel Nomo retiring, it's almost a sad type of feeling for me." Said Hall of Fame manager Tom Lasorda on Nomo: "He was class personified. I believe he set a good example representing his country and he made it possible for other Japanese players to come to the United States. If he hadn't done that, I think a lot of clubs would have been hesitant to bring Japanese players to America."
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.