Becoming a Legend
Tigers’ Messenger Looks to Catch the Great Bacque and Lead the Team to the Top
Gonna be a legend! Pitcher Randy Messenger (33) signed a 2-year contract (worth 500 million yen) with the Tigers through the end of 2016 at a hotel at McGee Tyson Airport (Knoxville, Tennessee) on the 14th. This season, his fifth in Japan, saw him record 13 wins and his first “most wins” title, but he wants more in 2015. Should he reach double figures in wins for the fifth straight year and win his second straight “most wins” title, he would become the “Greatest Foreign Pitcher of All Time.”
As his right hand scrawled his signature across the page, the curtain opens on Messenger’s legend. Negotiations took place in a hotel in Tennessee. His facial expression brimmed with the same confidence as he shows when he stands tall on the mound.
“I hope to stand strong on the rotation again and whenever I’m starting, I want to do everything I can to give my team a chance to win.”
With 13 wins in his fifth season in Japan, the man already won his first “most wins” title and his second straight “most strikeouts” title (with 226) but he is setting the bar even higher for next year. The righty will be 34 years old in August, but he could win the title of “Legendary Foreigner” in the hearts of fans.
He’s got double-digit win totals every year since 2011, and if he can do it again in 2015 he will become the third foreigner (after the Tigers’ Gene Bacque and the Marines’ Katsuo So) since the 2-league era started to do so. Of course for Messenger, this is just a short stop on the road to even greater things. Should he get through the summer in good shape, he could also become just the third foreign pitcher (after Kip Lee Gross of the Nippon Ham Fighters in 1995-96 and Seth Greisinger of the Yakult Swallows in 2007 and Yomiuri Giants in 2008) to nab the “most wins” title in back-to-back seasons. No pitcher has accomplished both of these. Doing so would make him the “Greatest Foreign Pitcher of All Time.”
But it’s not just about setting records. Naturally, the team is also relying heavily on the righty. The team’s attempts to sign free agents this offseason have all gone sour, leaving the team with just four of their six rotation spots (Mess, Nohmi, Fujinami and Iwata) solidified. The lineup is the same as it was this past season. Messenger threw the most innings of any pitcher in either league, with 208 ⅓. Naturally the team is counting on the man who threw on 4 days’ rest and got the team a bunch of wins. “We expect, and even need, greater numbers (than this year’s) from him next season,” said pitching coach Nakanishi.
As though he could still hear the crowd at Koshien cheering all the way from his home country, Messenger said, “I’m so happy to be able to pitch before Hanshin Tigers fans next season. They stay loud all the way through the game, which pushes me to play harder for them.” He’s planning to train for next year near his home in Kentucky, but he will not throw until next year. More important than practicing his throwing is building the stamina to be able to throw well the entire season. That and taking care of his shoulder are top priority.
“What we were able to do in the playoffs this year is a huge confidence builder for next season.”
Next season is the team’s 80-year anniversary. Foreign import righty #54 looks to lead the team to its first league title in 10 years, first championship in 30, and becoming a true legend.