Takashi Saito (斎藤 隆, Saitō Takashi?, born February 14, 1970 in Sendai, Miyagi Prefecture, Japan) is a Japanese professional baseball player with the Milwaukee Brewers of Major League Baseball in the United States. Saito previously pitched for the Yokohama BayStars in the Japanese Central League, compiling a record of 87-80 over 13 seasons. A closer in his initial season of 2006, Saito finished 8th place in the National League Cy Young Award voting, receiving a single third place vote.
Saito played for Tohoku Fukushi University in Sendai during his college years alongside players such as former Seattle Mariners closer Kazuhiro Sasaki and current Hanshin Tigers outfielder Tomoaki Kanemoto. Saito was originally a position player, but he became a pitcher in his second year in college. He was drafted in the first round by the Yokohama Taiyo Whales in 1991. He was an all-star a total of four times while in Japan (1994, 1996, 1999, 2001), and he led the Central League in strikeouts with 206 in 1996. He was found to have a dislocated cartilage in his right elbow in the spring of 1997 and had to undergo surgery, subsequently spending the rest of the season rehabbing. He came back in 1998, winning 13 games while posting a 2.94 ERA. His team, the BayStars, also won the Japanese championship series for the second time in 38 years that year. He became the teams closer after incumbent Kazuhiro Sasaki left the BayStars to join the Mariners in 2000. His record was 7-1 with 27 saves, and a 1.67 ERA in 2001. Saito returned to his starting role in 2003, but did not win more than 6 games in a season between 2003 and 2005.
Saito signed a minor league deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers as a 36-year-old rookie in 2006, and surprised fans by making 24 saves, posting a 2.07 ERA, and striking out 107 batters (the most among relievers). He made his first Major League appearance on April 9, 2006, against the Philadelphia Phillies. He pitched 2/3 of an inning without giving up any runs or hits. After stepping into the closer role recently vacated by fan favorite Éric Gagné, he recorded his first Major League save on May 15, 2006, against the Colorado Rockies.