The Associated Press reports Los Angeles Dodgers closer Takashi Saito (elbow) will be out until at least late August with a sprained ligament in his right elbow. Surgery has been ruled out for now. He will rehabilitate his arm for six weeks before being evaluated, according to the team.
Manager Joe Torre said Sunday, July 13, that relief pitcher Jonathan Broxton will serve as the team's closer for now. Torre hasn't decided who will serve as Broxton's setup man, though.
Broxton should be picked up immediately, in all formats, if he has not been grabbed already. He has a great arm, and he can approach 100 mph with his fastball. He has struck out 11.23 batters per nine innings in his three-plus-year career.
Broxton has struggled as a closer, though. He nearly blew what ended up being his first save of 2007 when Saito was out for a week with a hamstring injury. Broxton allowed four earned runs in his next outing before Saito returned June 8 that season. Saito missed a few games July 18-27 last year with a sore shoulder, and Broxton went 1-for-2 in save opportunities. Broxton finished 2007 with two saves but blew six while serving predominantly as the primary setup man.
Broxton has five saves in his career and has 16 blown saves as well, so counting on him to help you in the saves column while Saito is out may be unrealistic. Keep in mind that he notched a portion of those blown efforts in non-traditional save situations, so it they don't represent solely his work as a potential closer. The worrisome stat, though, is his ERA, which has increased to 3.40 this season after increasing last season. His K/9 has decreased each of the last three seasons, too. This is a small cause for concern for a 24-year-old who has tallied 211 2/3 innings in his last 2 1/2 seasons.
If Broxton falters, the Dodgers could turn to relief pitcher Joe Beimel to record the final outs of the game. Beimel is having a great season with a 1.61 ERA. However, he's more of a situational lefty. Another relief pitcher you might want to keep an eye on is Hong-Chih Kuo. He has struck out 63 batters in 53 1/3 innings and has a 1.69 ERA to boot, although he has typically served as a long reliever.
Place Saito on your disabled list in all formats. Even if he doesn't return until September, he is dominant enough to give a fantasy team a late-season surge. Keep an eye on this situation, and have your cards lined up if Broxton struggles. Until that happens, though, Broxton is a must-own, and it may take a sizable meltdown for him to relinquish the role.
About Ryan Dodson
Dodson is a KFFL Contributor and has been with KFFL since 2002.
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