Braves sign Saito
Remember when I recently wrote that Frank Wren and procrastinator should never be used in the same sentence? Well, I certainly wasn’t lying.
Now we’ll just have to see if the Braves continue their press conference series with a Friday afternoon press conference.
During today’s press conference that announced Takashi Saito as the newest member of Wren’s reconstructed bullpen, Braves manager Bobby Cox praised the Japanese right-hander who will now primarily serve as the setup man for closer Billy Wagner, who you may remember was the featured guest during Wednesday’s installment of “Afternoon press conferences at Turner Field.”
“We’re very fortunate to get two outstanding relief pitchers in the last two days and we haven’t even been to the Winter Meetings yet,” Cox said. “We’re way ahead of the game.”
So how does Cox plan to utilize these two former closers, who like their predecessors (Mike Gonzalez and Rafael Soriano) provide a left-handed, right-handed mix.
“I think Takashi could have gone to any team that he wanted to,” Cox said. “Here when Wagner isn’t closing, he’ll be closing and setting up and vice-versa at times depending on who we’re facing.”
In other words, if there comes a time when Wagner needs a rest, Cox at least for now, has a plan to occasionally utilize Saito as his closer.
“I can remember when Takashi was with the Dodgers and he was lights out,” Cox said. “It became an eight-inning game. He was throwing that good over there when Grady Little was the manager. I know what Grady thought of him — a lot, very highly. I can’t wait for him to get to Spring Training and get the season going. I feel extremely good about the tail end of our nine-inning game.”
Saito, who developed a friendship with Wagner while they spent the final six weeks of this past season together in Boston’s bullpen, said that he had an opportunity to talk to Kenshin Kawakami about the Braves and the city of Atlanta. The two hurlers crossed paths during a television appearance in Japan last week.
Last year, Kawakami became the first Japanese native to play for the Braves at the Major League level.
“I asked (Kawakami) a lot of question and he explained a lot about the Atlanta area and the team and the manager and everything,” Saito said. “Everything seemed so positive. He was always calling me as well, telling me about the Braves. All of the information I’ve heard is very positive.”
Now that Wren has secured a pair of quality late-inning relievers at a cost that will likely remain below $12 million (depending on Saito’s incentives), he can place his focus on his needs to determine who will play first base and fill his final open outfield spot.
In the process, he will continue to attempt to find suitors for Derek Lowe or Javier Vazquez. For now, the club still would have a preference to deal Lowe.
I need to write the main story for the site. Just wanted to throw this up to talk about what Wren has done in the past two days.