LOS ANGELES – The surging Braves will have to make do without top setup reliever Takashi Saito for at least 15 days after putting him on the disabled list Friday with a pulled hamstring.
Rookie Craig Kimbrel was recalled from Triple-A Gwinnett to replace Saito, who injured his left hamstring in the ninth inning of Thursday’s 4-3 win against the Los Angeles Dodgers, the Braves’ ninth consecutive win.
Saito, 40, said he didn’t want to delay a decision and leave the Braves short-handed in the interim.
“It’s tough to go to the DL, but it’s tougher for the bullpen if it’s down to six people,” he said through his translator. “So I feel it’s the right decision.”
Manager Bobby Cox said immediately after Thursday’s game that he planned wait a few days to make a DL decision, in case Saito healed quickly.
“I was hoping it was just a cramp,” Cox said.
That optimism changed Friday after Cox talked to Saito and trainer Jeff Porter.
“I have the same opinion as the trainers, that I wouldn’t be able to pitch for two or three days,” Saito said.
Actually, Cox said it would probably be about a week longer than that before Saito could be ready to pitch, which made the decision easier.
“[Porter] said it’s going to be probably 10 days,” Cox said. “May as well go ahead and do it [DL him]. But I look at it in a positive way, too. He can rest his arm up.”
Kimbrel will return for his second stint with the Braves, after posting a 2.70 ERA and .167 opponents’ average in four appearances between May 7 and May 20.
The right-hander allowed two hits, one run and six walks with five strikeouts in 3-1/3 innings before being sent back to Triple-A, so he could get more work than he was getting in the major league bullpen.
Saito has had a key role in making the Braves’ bullpen one of the best in the National League. He has a 2.92 ERA in 25 appearances, with 34 strikeouts and eight walks in 24-2/3 innings.
He ranks among league leaders in lowest opponents’ average (.176) and strikeouts per nine innings (12.4), and in his past five appearances he allowed two hits with no walks and eight strikeouts in 5-1/3 scoreless innings.
Saito was one strike from earning his first Braves save Thursday when his hamstring tightened. He stayed in for another pitch, hoping it was only a cramp. But it worsened and he left with two strikes on Dodgers hitter Russell Martin.
Rookie lefty Jonny Venters replaced Saito and promptly struck out Martin swinging at a slider to record his first save — on just one pitch.