Saito nearing rehab assignment

Saito nearing rehab assignment

PHOENIX -- D-backs reliever Takashi Saito practiced covering first base on Tuesday, and the club will wait to see how his injured calf responds before sending him on a rehab assignment.

"There's nothing concrete with him now," D-backs manager Kirk Gibson said. "I feel his arm is fine, but when he feels like he's ready to go, I'd probably ask him if he'd go down somewhere in the Minor League system to pitch a time or two and see how he covers the bases."

The club doesn't want Saito to jump straight from controlled drills to live action in the big leagues. The pitcher has been running in the therapeutic pool at Salt River Fields, and Gibson said a gradual approach back will help Saito stay healthy throughout the season.

"I want to make sure he's ready to contribute and sustain what he's going to be up against," Gibson said. "This game here is pretty quick and there's a lot at stake. I'd say you go full speed more than once. It's not going to do any good if I get [Saito] back for a week, and [then be] back in this position."

Before sustaining the injury in Spring Training, the D-backs pegged Saito for the seventh-inning role to set up David Hernandez and J.J. Putz.

"We signed him because we know what he's capable of doing," Gibson said. "We want to put him in a position to do that consistently. I don't want him short term, I want him long term, that's my goal."