Messenger Injures Ankle, Season in Jeopardy

Details were taken from this article and this one (both Japanese).

Ace Hits DL Due to Injury for First Time; Season Over?

The Yomiuri Giants‘ announcers kept prattling on and on about how Shinnosuke Abe needed just four more hits to reach 2,000 for his career. Could he get it done tonight? Could he finish the job at Tokyo Dome before the team headed out on the road? When Randy Messenger shut him down in the second and fifth innings, the question was no longer if he could do it, but if he could get a hit and contribute to the team’s comeback. He got a hit, and unfortunately, it came at a price for the Hanshin Tigers.

His line drive came right back at Messenger, who appeared to try to deflect it to one of his fielders. Or maybe he was trying to get out of the way. Either way, it neither deflected very well, nor missed the mark. Instead, Abe waddled to first safely as the ball rolled towards first baseman Jason Rogers. Messenger looked to be in pain, jumping up and down several times, then trying a few shadow pitches. The coaching staff and trainers and interpreter leapt out of the dugout to check on their top pitcher.

He made it to the dugout to be looked at further, and for the first time in his career, declared himself unfit to keep on throwing. The team got out of the inning without any further damage, but the end result of the game was a crushing loss. It was not the worst news the team received, though.

Messenger hopped on one foot up the stairs towards the stadium exit, and was taken to a local hospital. When he was next seen that night at the team’s accommodations in Yokohama, he had a cast on his right ankle and needed crutches to get around. Details of the extent of the injury are unknown to us at present, but casts and crutches usually mean bad news. UPDATE: Reports say he has fractured his right ankle and may be lost for the rest of the season. He was de-activated on August 11, and replaced on the roster by reliever Roman Mendez.

Should Messenger require a trip to the disabled list, he would become the second pitcher in a week to do so. The good news is, last week’s injury to Takumi Akiyama does not appear to be serious, and he will likely be able to make his return during next week’s series against the Hiroshima Carp (at Kyocera Dome). And in other good news, the man expected to carry the team for the next decade or so, Shintaro Fujinami, had a second straight solid outing on the farm, and will likely be called up to replace Messenger in the rotation next week.

Still, with Yuta Iwasada getting farmed earlier in the week, Atsushi Nohmi showing signs of fatigue, and other x-factors (Minoru Iwata and Koyo Aoyagi) throwing regularly, the injuries to our most dependable pitchers is not a good sign heading forward. We can only hope for the best case scenario – that Messenger will be ready to go again in a few weeks, and that the team is still somehow in the playoff picture and looking reasonably strong.

With his return as well as that of Yoshio Itoi (right oblique – expected out at least until month’s end), the team could make some noise come postseason. If, and this is a big if, everyone gets healthy and is able to peak in time for the Climax Series.

Happy Birthday, Randy (he turns 36 on August 13). We wish you a speedy and complete recovery. We need you on that mound!

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T-Ray is the founder, chief writer and Junior Executive Vice President of Hanshin Tigers English News (H-TEN). Find him on Twitter @thehanshintiger.