09/10/08 9:55 PM ET
Penny activated from DL; Saito next
Dodgers ace joins 'pen for now; closer may return Saturday
By Ken Gurnick / MLB.com
Earlier Wednesday, reliever Takashi Saito pitched well enough in a simulated game against Rafael Furcal and Chin-lung Hu for the club to say he'll be activated from the disabled list Saturday.
Penny, the club's Opening Day starter, has spent two stints on the disabled list with right shoulder tendinitis and bursitis, limiting him to two starts since June 14 and just one victory since May 2. He began the season 5-2 with a 3.19 ERA, but followed that with a seven-game losing streak. Overall, Penny is 6-9 with a 6.05 ERA.
Penny said his contract status is one reason he wants to reclaim his starter job. The club holds a $9.25 option for next year with a $2 million buyout. Penny asked the Dodgers in the spring to pick up the option, but the club declined.
Penny's return will provide some immediate relief with the continued absence of southpaw Hong-Chih Kuo, who has been unavailable through this series because of a fatigued left arm. Penny said after making 75 throws Tuesday that he has enough arm strength to return to the starting rotation.
Dodgers manager Joe Torre, however, isn't ready for that yet, even if Penny is. Nor was Torre ready to declare Penny one of his starters should the Dodgers reach the playoffs. Greg Maddux was acquired last month to take Penny's spot in the rotation.
"It depends on what he looks like," Torre said of Penny. "We'll look at it if he feels good enough. I hope we're involved. In past seasons, it's pretty much what you see on the field that makes the determination. You like the hot hand going in and everybody sees it. I remember asking Roger Clemens one time who should start Game 1 and he said, 'Duque [Orlando Hernandez].' In order for us to make that decision, we have to win enough games."
To that end, Torre is ready to return Saito to the bullpen. Saito, disabled since July 13 with a torn right elbow ligament, threw 26 pitches in a simulated game and proclaimed himself ready for game action.
"I did everything I had to do, everything I could do. I'm ready to go," said Saito.
Saito said he's 100 percent healthy, although conceded his pitches aren't 100 percent sharp because he didn't have the benefit of a Minor League rehab assignment for total preparation. He said he was pleased to be back after facing the possibility of surgery, or worse.
"With the pain, I thought about retiring, but as it has gotten better, I haven't thought about retiring," said Saito, 38.
He would not speculate on pitching next year or whether he would have submitted to surgery had this injury not healed.
Torre said Saito would be eased back and, initially, not in a closing role "until we sense that he's comfortable locating his pitches. His strength is location."
In the simulated game, Saito was not at his best, throwing "a couple of flat breaking pitches," according to Torre, but also "a couple very sharp ones and his fastball had a lot of life."
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.