Pair of Orioles honored with Gold Gloves
Markakis, Wieters both win awards for first time in careers
BALTIMORE -- The Orioles were honored with some hardware Tuesday night, with catcher Matt Wieters and right fielder Nick Markakis both receiving a Rawlings Gold Glove Award for the first time in their careers.
The Gold Gloves honor the best individual fielding performances at each position in the National and American Leagues -- as voted by Major League managers and coaches.
"Just to be considered in the same class as the top three or four defenders at your position is pretty special," said Wieters, who beat out Chicago's A.J. Pierzynski and Detroit's Alex Avila, and ended the 2011 season tied for the lead among AL catchers with a .995 fielding percentage.
Selected to his first career All-Star Game, the 25-year-old Wieters committed five errors, allowed one passed ball and threw out 37 percent of would-be basestealers to become the first catcher in Orioles history to win a Gold Glove Award.
AL GOLD GLOVE WINNERS
|C||Matt Wieters, Orioles||1|
|1B||Adrian Gonzalez, Red Sox||3|
|2B||Dustin Pedroia, Red Sox||2|
|3B||Adrian Beltre, Rangers||3|
|SS||Erick Aybar, Angels||1|
|LF||Alex Gordon, Royals||1|
|CF||Jacoby Ellsbury, Red Sox||1|
|RF||Nick Markakis, Orioles||1|
|P||Mark Buehrle, White Sox||3|
"It's a good feeling inside, which is nice to have," Wieters said of the award. "It's something you can look back on, but it's not something you think is going to be given to you every year. You have to keep working to get better."
A workhorse who also had a strong year offensively, Wieters started 129 games behind the plate for the Orioles, appearing in 132 total as a catcher. Manager Buck Showalter, who once said Wieters did something every game that impressed him, has praised the young backstop's devotion to the game and his ability to do the little things, such as catch foul balls and block the plate.
Markakis had an equally impressive season in the field, and he earned an award that many around baseball -- including Showalter -- have long thought to be well overdue. The owner of a career .992 fielding percentage, which ranks him first among active AL right fielders, Markakis finished the 2011 season with a perfect fielding percentage -- the first in franchise history for a player with more than 150 games played -- in 325 chances.
Markakis led the Orioles in games played for the fifth consecutive season and was joined by New York's Robinson Cano as the only players in the AL to appear in 155 or more games in each of the past five seasons. Since making his big league debut in 2006, Markakis' 72 outfield assists rank second in the Majors, behind only to Jeff Francoeur's 84.
Asked if the honor was the highlight of his career so far, Markakis said the only other comparable feeling was playing as a rookie.
"[Winning a Gold Glove is] something I'll always remember, because you work hard and you go out there and give it 100 percent every day," said Markakis, who started a team-leading 160 games (including 157 in right field) and gutted out the final few weeks of the season despite a bone bruise in his lower abdomen.
Widely regarded as one of the game's best outfielders, Markakis' Gold Glove drought was thought to exist in part because of the way the previous years' balloting lumped together the outfielders in one category -- which led to center fielders dominating the honors. Balloting this season was divided by outfield position, which helped Markakis edge Francoeur and perennial winner Torii Hunter of the Angels.
"Center field -- that's one tough job out there. They've got a lot of ground to cover, backing up their [teammates]," Markakis said. "That's why you put your best defenders in center field. That's why they win it. But it's nice to see [the balloting change], because ... every position's out there now. I was shocked [when they initially announced the changes], but then again I was like, 'Why not?'"
Wieters and Markakis are the 14th and 15th Orioles in franchise history to win a Gold Glove. The multiple awards marked the 17th season the O's had more than one winner, and the first since 1998. Orioles shortstop J.J. Hardy was also nominated, but he lost to the Angels' Erick Aybar.
Brittany Ghiroli is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, Britt's Bird Watch, and follow her on Twitter @britt_ghiroli. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.