The Hanshin Tigers announced on Thursday that they managed to sign Randy Messenger to a 1-year deal worth about 53M yen.
Messenger is a 28-year-old right-handed pitcher that has spent time with the Florida Marlins, San Francisco Giants, and Seattle Mariners. All 173 of his appearances in the Majors have come in relief.
=== UPDATE 12/21/2009 9:50pm JST
What are your thoughts on the Hanshin Tigers?
I'm really excited. I'm also looking forward to playing with Kenji Johjima again.
What do you know about the Tigers?
I guess I don't really know much to be honest. But I do know they have some passionate fans and that they're usually in the top 3 in their league. They have a lot of tradition and I hear they have a great ballpark. I'm proud to have a chance to play for a team like that.
What led you to decide to play with the Tigers, to play in Japan?
I think there was some talk about a team in Japan being interested in me back in June. There really weren't too many details back then, and I never asked which team was interested, but it did get me to thinking that Japan could be another option for me. The batting coach at Tacomo, Alonzo Powell, actually played in Japan so I asked him a lot of questions. When I was brought up to the show by the Mariners in August, I also had a chance to talk to Kenji about Japan. Of course, I hadn't made a decision yet about playing in Japan, but I thought it might be interesting to try playing in another country.
And that Johjima is now with the Tigers.
And that's a big relief [for me]. Not only is there a player here that I know, but also a player that I've pitched to. It's a big source of strength knowing that there's a catcher here that I've played with.
And there's no language barrier.
Yeah. I don't think I ever felt there was any problems with communicating to him in English on the mound.
That Johjima also apparently pushed for you.
When we first started talking, I briefly heard about that. That definitely makes me happy. I think I remember him telling me, when we were talking about baseball in Japan, that he thought I'd translate well [in Japan].
Anything special that Powell or Johjima tell you about Japanese baseball?
Like the smaller strike zone.
It doesn't s0me like that would be a problem for you though.
The umpires over here can be pretty tough on rookies and foreigners. Powell half-jokingly told me once that there's a similar phenomenon in Japan as well.
Do you have any prior connections to Matt Murton, Casey Fossum, or Craig Brazell?
We've never been teammates, but I've seen Murton and Fossum a number of times back when we all played in the National League. I think I played with Brazell back during the 2002 Minor League All-Star game. That may have been the last time we met, but I've known about him. This is a really good group of guys. They're all great players. I'm really excited about playing with all of them.
There's some more, also from Sanspo:
Regarding your pitching style... You used to try and overpower opponents with a 98mph fastball. This year, you've dropped your speed down to about 94mph. Your control appears to have improved quite a bit because of that. What's the story on that?
I just began thinking that it isn't necessary to throw 98mph to get batters out. It's all about changing speeds. Ever since I started thinking that way, I'm not forcing the pitches and I'm throwing freely. The rest is just relying on the catcher to call the game. I think this has really helped make pitching a lot of fun [for me].
Have you ever visited Japan before?
To be honest, no. I've only been to Canada and Mexico. But I think that makes things even more exciting.
Will your family be living with you in Japan?
Yeah. My wife and my not quite 1-year-old daughter will live with me. And [my wife will be delivering] out second child in July next year in Japan.
Yes. At least that's the plan right now. It'll be during the season, but this isn't something everyone has a chance at experiencing. Including that, I'd really like to try and experience as much of Japan as possible.
Finally, what kind of player do you want to be with the Tigers?
I want to be able to pitch in whatever roll they need me for. I just really want to help this team. I want to melt in. It might be the first time I play baseball in Japan, but I want to approach the season by taking everything in.
=== UPDATE 1/15/2010 8:52pm JST
Messenger was assigned the number 54.