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Mariners’ Sasaki Goes on 15-Day DL

April 24, 2003

SEATTLE (AP) _ Seattle Mariners closer Kazuhiro Sasaki was placed on the 15-day disabled list Wednesday, a day after he had to leave a game because of tightness in his lower back.

Sasaki, 35, was examined by Dr. Mitch Storey, one of the Mariners’ team doctors. The Mariners said Sasaki’s injury was a strained right lower back.

The Mariners said they will make a move Thursday to fill Sasaki’s place on their roster. They are expected to call up a pitcher from Triple-A Tacoma.

The Mariners led 3-2 Tuesday night when Sasaki gave up three runs in the ninth inning. But Seattle came back to win 8-5 on Mike Cameron’s grand slam.

Sasaki has struggled all season, blowing four of eight save opportunities. He has a 1-1 record and a 9.00 ERA in 10 games and nine innings.

In his fourth season as Seattle’s closer, the two-time All-Star from Japan is the team’s all-time saves leader with 123, including 37 last season.

With Sasaki hurt, manager Bob Melvin will use left-hander Arthur Rhodes and right-hander Jeff Nelson as his closers.

Rhodes, 33, is the only left-hander in Seattle’s bullpen. Melvin said he’d hoped to limit Rhodes to one-inning performances, but might have to extend him further.

``You don’t want to blow your bullpen out,″ Melvin said. ``You don’t want to overdue it.″

Rhodes has 44 career saves, including two last season, and Nelson has 23 career saves, including two last season.

Melvin said Sasaki will get the Seattle closer’s job back when he’s healthy again.

``Kaz is our closer, and that’s the way it is right now,″ Melvin said.

Sasaki pitched 10 seasons for Yokohama in Japan and had a Japanese career-record 229 saves before he signed with the Mariners as a free agent in December 1999. Last May, he signed a two-year contract extension with Seattle with an option for 2005.

Sasaki had surgery last Oct. 28 to remove bone chips from his right elbow. This spring, he was limited in the amount of pitching he could do because of a sore right shoulder.

In August 1999, the season before he came to Seattle, he had season-ending elbow surgery.

Wednesday’s move was the first time Sasaki was placed on the disabled list in the majors.

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