Messenger impressing in short stint

Messenger impressing in short stint

CLEVELAND -- Three strong outings do not a reliable reliever make.

That's as far as Mariners manager Jim Riggleman will go when discussing recent callup Randy Messenger.

"If I saw [Sandy] Koufax for the first time," Riggleman said, "I would have said, 'I'll hold off judging him.'"

Realizing that he may have back-doored his way into comparing the 27-year-old Messenger with one of the greatest pitchers in baseball history, Riggleman rode with it.

"He's going to go from here and we may not pitch him much until they elect him to the Hall of Fame," Riggleman said.

OK, point taken. Maybe it is too soon to lay down the verdict on Messenger.

But the early returns have certainly been promising.

In just his third appearance since he was called up from Triple-A Tacoma less than a week ago, Messenger entered Saturday's game with two outs and the tying runner on first as the Mariners clung to a 4-3 lead in the 10th inning. Four pitches later, Messenger retired pinch-hitter Victor Martinez with a ground ball to pick up his first save since July 6, 2007. He also became the ninth different Mariners pitcher to pick up a save this season, which is one shy of the club record.

"Sometimes that's a tougher situation for a pitcher to pitch and hold the lead, especially with two outs in a save situation," Riggleman said. "I was very happy that he was poised and got the job done."

Messenger has looked tough since the Mariners signed him as a Minor League free agent on July 10. He was released by the Giants -- at his own request -- the day before.

In 12 appearances at Tacoma, Messenger was 6-0 with a save over 22 2/3 innings, compiling a 2.38 ERA. In his three appearances with the big league club, the 6-foot-6, 270-pound right-hander has allowed just two hits over two innings of work.

He hasn't wasted much time in his outings, either, using just 25 pitches -- all but four for strikes.

"I try to just come in and pound the [strike] zone," Messenger said. "I make hitters get themselves out. [I] pitch to contact instead of away from contact."

The mini-run of success has served as a confidence booster for Messenger, who said he "just didn't feel things were right over there" in San Francisco.

"It's just nice to get an opportunity over here with these guys," Messenger said. "Pitching well in the Minor Leagues helped out a lot. I'm just coming here and doing what I was doing down there. I haven't changed anything."

And he'll have to keep doing what he's doing if he wants to convince Riggleman that he is a bona-fide Major Leaguer -- or, perhaps, the next Koufax.

"I'm pleased with the results to this point," Riggleman said, "but it's a very small piece of work."

Andrew Gribble is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.