A smaller Randy Messenger says his fiery, inconsistent days are in the past
One of Randy Messenger's nicknames is Big Mess, but it's not so apt any more. For one thing, Big Mess has gotten smaller.
Seattle Times baseball reporter
PEORIA, Ariz. — One of Randy Messenger's nicknames is Big Mess, but it's not so apt any more.
For one thing, Big Mess has gotten smaller. After tipping the scales at a Sabathia-esque 284 pounds last year, the 6-foot-6 Messenger now weighs between 240 and 245.
"They wanted me to lose a little weight at the end of the season, and I took it a little further," said Messenger, whose daughter Francesa was born last year. "I just actually wanted to be there long term for my daughter."
As for the mess part, Big Mess hopes to prove in this camp that he's someone that the Mariners can rely upon in their bullpen.
Messenger, 27, is an outside candidate for the wide-open closer's job, but after years of being on the minor-major shuttle with the Florida Marlins and San Francisco Giants, he'll settle for any relief role, so long as he's on the team.
So far, he's on the right track, logging a 1.13 earned-run average through seven games. A reliever's ERA, of course, can be deceptive, but there's nothing illusory about this stat: zero walks in eight innings.
That's just one reason the Mariners' new coaching staff has taken notice of the guy that the organization took off their 40-man roster in January to make room for newly acquired Ronny Cedeno.
Manager Don Wakamatsu noted recently how Messenger "attacks the strike zone without inhibition."
Pitching coach Rick Adair added, "I've loved the way he's gone about his business. He's been on the attack."
Interesting choice of words by Adair. Messenger's career has had its messy moments, no question. With the Marlins in 2006, he got in an off-field dust-up with his teammate — and good buddy — Scott Olsen. Olsen came away with a black eye.
"I always explain it as just a big brother putting a little brother in his place," Messenger said. "We've been around each other since he got signed. We developed a good relationship. It was just one of those days. We had an argument that didn't need to occur, and one thing led to another. I had to put him in his place.
"After he came to his senses, and we talked about it, he realized he was in the wrong. Of course, I apologized for what I did. He just said, 'You won't ever have to worry about me again.' "
The Marlins actually took off after the incident and pulled into contention for the NL East lead, with Olsen, a member of their rotation, leading the way.
"We went on a winning streak," Messenger said, "and the joke was, 'Hey, Olsen, you should let Mess knock you in the other eye this time and see what happens.' It was all good."
The Marlins traded Messenger to the Giants in May of 2007 for Armando Benitez. Messenger was pitching well and earning increasing responsibility in San Francisco's bullpen until a fateful night in Atlanta in mid-August.
After giving up a walkoff double to the Braves' Chipper Jones, Messenger punched a bat rack in the Giants' dugout with his left hand. The next day, when he played catch before the game, Messenger felt a sharp pain when he caught the ball. Messenger had broken his non-pitching hand.
That was a mess, but Messenger compounded it by initially telling the Giants — and the media — that he broke his hand when hit by a line drive while shagging balls in the outfield. However, Messenger's conscience got the better of him, and he quickly fessed up.
"Actually, a couple of the guys didn't want me to come clean," he said. "I asked a couple of the veteran guys what I should do about that. Eventually, I told them the truth ... knowing that I'm lying to the organization.
"I came clean as soon as we came into the clubhouse. It took about 30, 40 minutes. I took the head trainer aside and told him exactly what happened."
The incident highlights Messenger's fiery side, which he hopes he's learned to curtail.
"Basically, I hate to lose," he said "That's just my competitive nature. To lose a game like that on a walkoff base hit, that's one of the worst feelings to have. It's tough to swallow. Now I've matured since that year. You've got to know what you're doing."
Messenger believes the Giants lost confidence in him after that incident and he was released the following May. The Mariners signed him the next day, and Messenger said he loved his experience last year, first in Tacoma, then 13 games with the Mariners.
Even though he was on the open market after passing through waivers in January, Messenger chose to return to Seattle on a minor-league deal.
"I really enjoyed the short amount of time I had here last year," he said. "And with the new coaching staff and front office, it's awesome to have new eyes."
Now the Mariners are hoping that Big Mess is a big help to their 2009 bullpen.
Larry Stone: 206-464-3146 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Copyright © 2009 The Seattle Times Company
About Larry Stone
Larry Stone gives an inside look at the national baseball scene every Sunday. Look for his weekly power rankings during the season.