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Messenger closing in on deal with Hanshin

by

Staff Writer

Meta

Randy Messenger and the Hanshin Tigers are nearing a deal that will keep the right-hander with the club through 2018, his agent, Matt Sosnick, told The Japan Times on Thursday.

The two sides had been having both formal and informal discussions for some time, and negotiations have, according to Sosnick, been progressing well to this point.

“As far as we know, it would be the largest two-year deal ever signed by an American in Japan,” Sosnick said without divulging the actual figure the sides are working toward. “The deal is in the final stages. We have the framework of the deal set up. There’s no reason to believe that it’s not going to happen in its current form.”

Messenger is 12-11 with a 3.01 ERA (fifth in the Central League) in 185⅓ innings for the Tigers this season. The 35-year-old is second in the CL with 177 strikeouts and has thrown two complete games, one shutout, for Hanshin this season.

“The deal is a testament to not only the fact Randy has been arguably the best foreign pitcher in Japanese history, but also to Hanshin for taking care of him and his family so well — in particular to Toru Miyake,” Sosnick said, singling out a team director and international scout.

Messenger is about to wrap up his seventh season in Japan. He’s one of the longest-tenured foreign players in NPB, trailing only his former teammate and Chiba Lotte Marines pitcher Jason Standridge, who is in his ninth year, and the Orix Buffaloes’ Tony Blanco, currently in his eighth.

The Reno, Nevada, native is 73-65 overall in Japan and has a 3.05 ERA. His 1,085 strikeouts put him among Victor Starffin (1,960), Genji Kaku (1,415), and Kuo Tai-yuan (1,069) as the only foreign players to reach 1,000. Messenger has spent his entire NPB career with the Tigers and helped the team reach the 2014 Japan Series.

“It’s a testament to the fact that he’s pitched incredibly well,” Sosnick said. “We consider Randy, certainly in the 20 years I’ve been doing this, the best American to ever go over and perform for a long period of time in Japan.”

The agent said Messenger didn’t entertain pitching for another Japanese team, and that he and his family were comfortable with the situation at Hanshin.

“Once again, I think a good part of his success belongs to Hanshin and the way they’ve treated Randy,” Sosnick said. “Toru Miyake brought him over seven years ago as potentially a relief pitcher, they (the Tigers) weren’t sure what they were going to do with him.

“The other teams in the league should watch how Hanshin treats its foreign players and prioritizes their families. Randy and his wife feel that Mr. Miyake has been a huge part of Randy being successful and deserves ample credit for taking such good care of the family for so many years.”