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Messenger, agent disappointed with how Hanshin handled demotion

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Staff Writer

Matt Sosnick, the agent for Hanshin Tigers ace Randy Messenger, says both he and his client are very disappointed in the way the Tigers handled the right-hander’s demotion to ni-gun earlier this week.

In a telephone conversation with The Japan Times Thursday morning, Sosnick said Messenger was among the last to know he’d been sent down, and strongly feels the pitcher should’ve been informed before the media.

“He found out on Mother’s Day in the United States (May 11 in Japan),” Sosnick said.” His wife, and his mother in the States, and his agent, all found out over an hour before Randy did. “Because the team leaked it to the press before they even told Randy that he was being sent down.

“In my mind at least, it’s so unbelievably distasteful, and it’s so disrespectful to a player like Randy, who pitches on short rest all the time. He’s totally for the team, he loves playing for Hanshin.”

Messenger, 33, expressed his disappointment in a statement provided by Sosnick.

“I greatly respect the Hanshin management, coaches and fans,” Messenger’s statement read. “I love the club and hope to continue to play here for many years. Although both the team and I have struggled to start the year, I have no doubt that I will pitch well for the rest of the year, and that the team will peak at the right time and compete for the postseason.

“I also respect and honor the right of the management to make decisions that are in the best interest of the club, including those involving me.

“Like any good relationship, clear, direct communication is the key. It has always been one of the best things about my time with the Tigers.

“My recent demotion to the minor leagues was disappointing, as I believe that I have performed well enough for enough years that I could easily have been afforded the opportunity to pitch through any struggles.”

Messenger is in his sixth season in Japan and is 54-47 with a 3.23 ERA. He was a 13-game winner last season and led Japan with 226 strikeouts. He posted a 3.20 ERA in 208⅓ innings.

The big right-hander has gotten off to a slow start in 2015. Messenger is 2-5 with a 5.88 ERA in eight starts.

“While I respected the right of the team to skip one of my starts, I was surprised to learn that my wife, mother and agent all knew that I had been demoted well before I was informed by the club in person,” Messenger said in the statement. “The fact that my wife and mother were forced to read on the Internet about something so important to my family (and on Mother’s Day) was not only disappointing, but is totally the opposite of what I would expect from such a great team run by smart, thoughtful business people.

“I look forward to coming back as strong and committed as ever, and helping to lead the Tigers to our proper place at the top of the standings.”

Sosnick described the situation as disappointing.

“Both Randy and I have an incredible amount of respect for Hanshin, in particular for Toru,” Sosnick said, referring to Hanshin’s U.S. scout Toru Miyake. “In my mind, the reason we’ve (the agency Sosnick Cobbe & Karon Sports) done a lot of business with Hanshin, is because of Toru. He’s a very honorable, very honest guy.”

When asked about the situation Monday, Tigers PR chief Keiichiro Yotsufuji wrote in an email that, “We guess the reports by some of the papers on May 11 are based on Messenger’s pitching and his record.”

The Tigers revealed they were sending Messenger to the farm on Monday.

“He must be feeling all kinds of frustration, and I want him to just take a step back and get clear of it. We have to check out his mechanics as well,” Hanshin manager Yutaka Wada was quoted as saying by Kyodo News at the time.

According to Sosnick, Messenger was unaware of the situation Monday morning.

“By the time that they told Randy about it, it had already been out for over an hour and so it already been picked up by a bunch of different media services,” Sosnick said. “His wife had read about it after Randy dropped his kids off at school, but his wife didn’t mention anything about it because Randy didn’t mention anything about it. So she wasn’t really sure.

“He called his mother to wish her a happy Mother’s Day, and his mother mentioned that he had been sent down, and he said ‘what are you talking about?’ He thought she had made a mistake and then he went into the office and they told him.

“The fact that the media can pick up on that and it can get around, it just seems like it’s not right.”

Sosnick says the situation won’t affect how Messenger pitches and hopes he remains with the team beyond this year. He said Messenger is also hopeful of remaining with the team for years to come.

He also mentioned there had been no previous problems with Hanshin.

“It’s been the opposite,” Sosnick said. “The team has been incredible, classy, gone out of their way for my players, extended themselves, gone above and beyond. Not only that, Toru, he represents the absolute best in Japanese baseball in my mind. Randy’s got four young kids, he’s personally looked after Randy very well.”

Sosnick said it was out of character for Hanshin, “because they’ve been so wonderful for so many years.”

“The team has treated Randy and his wife and his children very well,” he said. “They’ve looked out for Randy’s best interests, and we appreciate everything that’s gone on.

“The players are human beings. Randy’s a human being, and he and his wife and his mother, they were all really, really hurt and disappointed that the team couldn’t wait to release the news until they’d told Randy face-to-face.

“For Randy to find out from his own mother, instead of from the team, is just wrong.”