Although the Los Angeles Dodgers have a history of signing marquee international free agents, their addition of relief pitcher and Japanese native Takashi Saito didn’t exactly meet
Saito signed to a Minor League contract with the Dodgers in 2006 and didn’t make the club out of Spring Training.
However, he inherited the closer role by May and went on to set a franchise rookie record with 24 saves.
Saito finished seventh in National League Rookie of the Year voting, and eighth for the Cy Young.
Saito remained with the Dodgers in 2007 and 2008, then joined the Boston Red Sox (2009), Atlanta Braves (2010), Milwaukee Brewers (2011) and Arizona Diamondbacks (2012). He then pitched for Tohoku Rakuten in 2013 and 2014 before officially retiring at the end of last season.
Now retired, Saito returns to the Majors, but as a front-office intern for the San Diego Padres, according to Dennis Lin of The San Diego Union-Tribune:
The Padres have hired former All-Star closer Takashi Saito as a front-office intern, providing a unique opportunity for a prominent Japanese figure while expanding the club’s reach across the Pacific Ocean. Saito, 45, will spend one year interning in the Padres’ baseball operations department, learning about everything from scouting to player development to analytics.
Saito reunites with Logan White, the Padres director of player personnel and senior advisor to general manager A.J. Preller.
White previously worked for the Dodgers in roles throughout his tenure as director of amateur scouting, assistant general manager of scouting, assistant general manager of international scouting and vice president of amateur scouting.
He was instrumental in the Dodgers signing Saito out of Japan. Over seven Major League seasons, Saito recorded 84 saves to go with a 2.34 ERA.
The best season of his career came with the Dodgers in 2007 when Saito converted 39 saves, posted a 1.40 ERA, and was named to the NL All-Star team.