Giants' Benitez makes return to Marlins for reliever Messenger

Updated: June 1, 2007, 2:44 AM ET
Associated Press

Armando Benitez

Randy Messenger

NEW YORK -- The San Francisco Giants sent Armando Benitez back to where he enjoyed his greatest success, trading the struggling closer to the Florida Marlins for reliever Randy Messenger on Thursday night.

Benitez, who recently rankled the team by blaming San Francisco hitters for not scoring enough runs, was not in the clubhouse after the Giants' 4-2 loss to the New York Mets and his locker was completely cleaned out.

Benitez was 0-3 with nine saves in 11 chances and a 4.67 ERA. He had been getting booed at home, as he was last season.

"He's been hounded by the media, the fans and some teammates," Giants general manager Brian Sabean said. "To think he's the root of our problems the last couple of years is ridiculous.

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Ah, the trade that simply makes itself: On one hand, you've got a team fed up with its high-salaried, rapidly aging pitcher, eager to unload him no matter the return. On the other, you've got a team that had been chasing said pitcher for oh, say, six months. Such is the story of Armando Benitez's trade to the Marlins, back to the team for whom he had his best season in 2004, a 47-save, 1.29-ERA masterpiece. Fantasy spin

"The one thing I know is he's strong enough to be a whipping boy. I don't revel in his demise. It's time for everybody to do a gut check."

The Giants are fourth in the NL West at 25-27. Brad Hennessey has the other two saves for San Francisco this season.

Benitez's final game for the Giants came Tuesday night, when he balked twice in the 12th inning of a 5-4 loss to the New York Mets. On his last pitch for San Francisco, he gave up a game-ending home run to Carlos Delgado.

Benitez is owed $5,066,666 from the remainder of his $7.6 million salary this year, of which Florida will pay $333,333 and San Francisco will pay $4,733,333.

"We're getting a guy that has that experience and our people think he can still do it," Marlins manager Fredi Gonzalez said after a 4-3 loss at Milwaukee.

Messenger was 1-1 with a 2.66 ERA for the Marlins. He is expected to join the Giants in Philadelphia on Friday.

The 25-year-old righty is from Reno, Nev., and welcomed the chance to pitch closer to home -- and to witness Barry Bonds make home run history.

"Now I just get to follow the freak show," he said. "It'll be a good thing. Definitely a good thing. Hopefully he does it in San Francisco so all my family will be there, too, so they can celebrate with us."

He's been hounded by the media, the fans and some teammates. To think he's the root of our problems the last couple of years is ridiculous.

Giants GM Brian Sabean

The 34-year-old Benitez returns to Florida, where he set a team record with a career-high 47 saves in 2004. That was his only season with the Marlins, and the righty signed with the Giants as a free agent after that season.

"I think we knew a long time ago there may be a comfort level with Florida, but the whole thing came together in 24 hours," Sabean said.

Florida was interested in trading for Benitez last offseason, but instead got Jorge Julio in spring training from Arizona. Julio did poorly and was traded to Colorado, leaving Kevin Gregg as the Marlins closer.

"We love Armando. He did a great job for us in '04," Florida assistant general manager Michael Hill said. "We know him and we know he liked his time here, so we're very happy to have him back."

A hard thrower, Benitez is prone to getting excitable on the mound. He has 289 saves in a major league career that began in 1994, but has had particular trouble in the postseason.

Messenger is making the major league minimum of $380,000 this season. In three seasons, he is 3-8 with a 4.98 ERA in 111 relief appearances.

"I've never been anywhere else, so it's definitely a reality check. You're no longer a Marlin, you're going to some other team," he said. "First time ever I'm going to be wearing a different color, so it's going to be a little odd."

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press