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And so it begins...

Posted by Amalie Benjamin  February 10, 2009 11:05 AM

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FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Welcome to spring training. We're coming to you live from the green picnic benches just outside the Red Sox clubhouse at the player development complex down Edison Avenue from City of Palms Park.

It's been pretty calm here this morning -- and absolutely gorgeous weather-wise -- with sightings of quite a few minor leaguers and a few select members of the 40-man roster. Notable among the sightings have been Kevin Youkilis, Rocco Baldelli, Josh Beckett, Jon Lester, Brad Penny, Takashi Saito, and John Smoltz. Beckett and Lester were playing catch on one of the fields while some of the position players took some swings on another field.

Saito, in fact, just addressed the media, with Youkilis expected to talk around noon today.

"Physically I feel great," Saito said, through interpreter Masa Hoshino. "Throwing and running I felt great out there. I can start whenever."

Saito, who spent the past three seasons as the Dodgers' closer, seemed confident that his elbow injury wouldn't be a problem. Saito missed about two months of last season with elbow trouble before coming back to pitch at the end of the season and in the playoffs. Saito expects to be on the same program in spring training as the rest of the pitchers.

"On the elbow, I feel that it's in extremely good condition," said Saito, who turns 39 Feb. 14. "But I can only say it's good so much. I think it's just going to take time to have these guys take a good look at it, work it out over time, hopefully prove to you guys over time that it's really in good shape.

As for surgery, "The reason I didn't elect for surgery, even though that was certainly an option, is because the rehab alone from that would take about a year," he said. "At my age, I didn't feel like that was an option that I wanted to take. In terms of the actual things I did instead of surgery, there's a lot involved. It's tough to talk about in a short period of time."

But there is good news for Saito, at least on a personal level: The trash talk about Penny, his teammate on the Dodgers, already has started.

"I think physically there aren't many restrictions in general," Saito said, explaining that he had suffered through some calf problems in recent seasons. "There's nothing to worry about on the elbow. I'm pretty sure I can keep up with Brad Penny."

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