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Monday, March 26, 2012

Hanshin's Messenger thrilled to meet old teammates

Staff writer

Hanshin Tigers pitcher Randy Messenger played for the Seattle Mariners during the 2008 and 2009 seasons. So he was understandably excited when he learned his current team would face his former team in an exhibition at Tokyo Dome on Sunday.

News photo
Reunion: Hanshin Tigers pitcher Randy Messenger played for the Seattle Mariners in 2008 and 2009. KYODO

"It's good to see them all," Messenger said prior to the game. "I was happy to get to actually finally talk to them. To see them in person instead of talking on the phone."

If not for Mother Nature causing a change in the schedule of Hanshin's pitchers, he might have had the chance to do more than talk.

"To be able to start against them in Japan, I would've loved it," Messenger said. "That's what happens when it rains, things are subject to change."

Instead, Messenger will start for the Tigers against the Oakland Athletics in an exhibition Monday afternoon.

"I think I did pretty good against them every time I threw against them, but that was always out of the bullpen," Messenger said of the A's.

Messenger made six appearances against Oakland during his MLB career, which spanned from 2005-2009. He played for the Florida Marlins, San Francisco Giants and the Mariners during his time in the majors.

He joined the Tigers in 2010 and is 17-13 with a 3.59 ERA in 51 NPB appearances.

Not being the starter against Seattle meant Messenger had time to visit with a few of his old teammates before the start of the game Sunday.

"It's not too often you get to see a major league team in Japan," said Messenger. "To actually be here when I'm playing against one of my old teams is a good thing to have."

He also had a chance to catch up with Seattle superstar Ichiro Suzuki.

"He was just happy to know I was having success over here," Messenger said. "I told him I wanted to see him get back to his normal Ichiro self, and he just laughed about it."

Messenger looks back fondly on his two seasons in Seattle. He made 25 appearances for the team and was 0-1 with a 3.91 ERA.

"It was a short-lived time, but just having the camaraderie that the team had," Messenger said. "Everybody was good, everybody was great together. We all had fun. Being a part of Ichiro's 10 consecutive years of 200 hits was pretty awesome too."

Despite not pitching against his former team, Messenger is relishing the chance to see the Mariners in action.

"Just watching a major league team play again in person is all I really want to do," he said. "Of course, watching Ichiro is always a pleasure and I want to see how (Munenori) Kawasaki does."

Both teams will have to switch gears quickly following their game. The Mariners have another exhibition to play before opening the MLB season against the A's on Wednesday at Tokyo Dome.

The Tigers will face the A's in an exhibition on Monday, and will host the Yokohama BayStars in a three-game series to start the NPB season beginning Friday at Kyocera Dome.

The Tigers hope the chance to face off against MLB teams helps propel them into the regular season.

"You always want to win, no matter what," Messenger said. "That's just your competitive nature. To beat a major league team, that gives your team a little more confidence I would imagine."

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