'09 Miller Award finalists announced
Players will determine Man of Year among six candidates
Curtis Granderson, Torii Hunter, Mike Lowell, Albert Pujols, Shane Victorino and Barry Zito were named the finalists in their respective divisions for the 2009 Marvin Miller Man of the Year Award on Sunday following nine days of online fan balloting at MLB.com and MLBPLAYERS.com.
Players across both leagues will now choose among the finalists in balloting for all of the 2009 Players Choice Awards that will take place at ballparks on Tuesday and Wednesday.
Pujols (2006) and Hunter (2007) are previous winners of the Marvin Miller Award, which goes to the player whose combination of on-field performance and community activity most inspire others to a higher level of achievement. Zito has been a finalist in the past while Lowell, Granderson and Victorino will appear on the Players Choice Awards ballot for the first time.
In balloting at AL and NL ballparks, players will choose the winner of the Marvin Miller Award as well the rest of the 2009 Players Choice Awards: Player of the Year, Outstanding Player (AL and NL), Outstanding Pitcher (AL and NL), Outstanding Rookie (AL and NL) and Comeback Player (AL and NL).
Jeter already has a spot for record-setting ball: Derek Jeter will provide the Hall of Famed with some article of memorabilia to commemorate his passing of Lou Gehrig to become the Yankees' all-time hits leader, but it won't be the baseball that he drilled to right on a soggy Friday night at Yankee Stadium to break the record.
"I'm sure my parents will have it," Jeter told the New York Daily News. "My parents keep a lot of that stuff."
Jeter's former manager, Joe Torre, offered his congratulations to Jeter with a text message.
"I communicated with him. I didn't call him," Torre said. "I heard back. I texted him -- that's his favorite thing. I've got to get into that young stuff."
Doumit first in line for whirlpool: On Friday night, Pirates catcher Ryan Doumit not only took a ball off of his kneecap, but he was also struck by a foul ball on the collarbone and hit by a ball on his forearm.
"It's what we sign up for," Doumit told MLB.com. "You can't complain. You got to keep that whirlpool full of ice for after the game."
Barajas showing his prowess behind the plate, too: Rod Barajas is having an outstanding year at the plate with 18 home runs and a career-high 64 RBIs so far. But the Blue Jays' catcher is more pleased with the job he's done behind the plate.
"With all the pitchers we've had, the young guys, the mixing in and out, I'm probably happiest with that, helping the young guys through the good times and the bad times and trying to get them back on track," Barajas told the Toronto Sun. "When you start catching guys you've never caught before or spent very little time with them in Spring Training, you have to get to know them quickly, what they can do well and what they don't do so well and try to take advantage of their strengths.
"So this year was really a challenge in trying to be on the same page and try to help these guys get through as many innings as they possibly could. Mentally, catching-wise, calling pitches-wise, it's probably been the most draining season that I've had -- and the most gratifying. For me, it's not just about swinging the bat, it's about development, helping the young guys and trying to be a [positive] influence on their season."
Manzella savors first hit: Tommy Manzella collected his first Major League hit on Friday night when he beat out a slow bouncer for an infield single. The Houston rookie shortstop said he is saving the ball for his father, Tommy Sr.
"At first, I thought I'd missed it," Manzella told the Houston Chronicle. "I broke hard out of the box, and as soon as I saw it get over his head, I thought I had a chance. I've heard from so many friends since I got called up, and you start thinking back to all the guys you played with. You pinch yourself."
Hoffpauir playing for the future: Micah Hoffpauir wants to be a part of the Chicago Cubs in 2010 and understands now is a good time to show he belongs.
"I've heard it a lot in the Minor Leagues as well: You're playing for next season right now," Hoffpauir told the Chicago Sun-Times. "Obviously, there's a lot of guys here playing that aren't going to be on this team next year. There's guys that we're playing against that may be on this team next year. That's one of those things where you're pushing toward the end of the season to do as good as you can to hopefully make an impression on somebody."
Gomes sees his career on the upswing: Jonny Gomes has seen a bit of a resurgence in his career this year, with a .271 average, 19 home runs and 48 RBIs through Sunday's game -- this in spite of starting the season at Triple-A and getting fewer than 250 at-bats Louisville.
"I wanted to get on track and back on the map," Gomes told MLB.com. "I did have a couple of 20 homer seasons in the big leagues under my belt without a lot of at-bats. The other one where I didn't hit 20, I hit 17. Last year, I didn't have many at-bats.
"It worked out but not exactly ideal. A couple of people had to go down for me to get in there. The opportunity door opened for me, and I stuck my foot in there, and hopefully I turned some non-believers into believers."
Liriano shines after layoff: Francisco Liriano found himself on the mound for the first time in almost a month on Friday night, tossing two scoreless relief innings against the Oakland A's. He recorded four of his six outs by strikeout.
"I just feel great," Liriano told MLB.com. "Way better than I did in the beginning of the season. I feel my arm was just really tired."
Looper making solid impression: Braden Looper will be back with the Brewers if manager Ken Macha get his way.
Looper is 12-6 with a 4.77 ERA this year, and the Brewers and Looper have mutual options for next season.
"We're six games under .500, and he's six over," Macha told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. "As manager, absolutely I want him back."
Blanks shooting to return to action this season: Rookie Kyle Blanks, currently out of the Padres' lineup with a strain of the plantar fascia ligament in his right foot, is holding onto slim hope that he will be able to play again this season.
"Realistically, it's tough to say that will happen," Blanks told the San Diego Union-Tribune. "My goal is to be physically ready to play before the end of the season."
Hamilton gets a boost with shots to his back: Josh Hamilton has been moving around without pain after receiving two injections in the lower back and hopes to return to the Rangers' lineup in time for this weekend's series against the Angels in Arlington.
"I'm feeling a lot better," Hamilton told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. "Waking up today was like night and day from where [the back pain] had been."
Hamilton reportedly learned that a small bulge in his lower back is the result of a pinched nerve and inflammation from Pars Defect that can be traced to a 2001 car accident while he was with Tampa Bay.
Out three months, Matsuzaka set to make return: Daisuke Matsuzaka, who has been out for three months, will return to the Boston rotation on Tuesday against the Angels.
"I know that it took me some time to get here," Matsuzaka told the Boston Globe through interpreter Masa Hoshino. "But I also feel that I was able to use that time to get prepared really well, and I just hope that I can apply all those things that I was preparing for in my start."
Guzman ponders move to second base: Cristian Guzman has seen a lot in his 10 years in the Majors, but that did not prepare him for a meeting with Washington's management on Thursday night. Manager Jim Riggelman and general manager Mike Rizzo met with Guzman to discuss moving the veteran to second base next season.
"I think he was taken by surprise by it," Rizzo told the Washington Post, "and that was another reason why we posed the question to him now rather than later. You know, his response was, he's never played second base before. I gave him a laundry list of great players who have continued their careers moving from shortstop to second base, and it kind of sunk in and made some sense."
Martin finds results with new approach: Russell Martin has been reworking his approach at the plate and believes he's beginning to make progress. He hit two home runs against San Francisco this past weekend, bringing his season total to six.
"I feel like I'm swinging at what I want to swing at," Martin told the Los Angeles Times. "I'm not swinging at what the pitchers want me to swing at. I find myself getting into good counts."
Wright on board with chance to become a starter: The Astros want to consider Wesley Wright, a reliever for most of his professional career, for a spot in the starting rotation next season.
"I definitely think I have the stuff to do it," he told the Houston Chronicle. "It's just a matter of getting the experience. I need to show I can go five innings and face a lineup three times. I think it'll be good for me."
Allen making an impact at first base: The more Brandon Allen plays, the better the impression the rookie first baseman is leaving with the Diamondbacks. In 19 games entering Sunday, he had three home runs and nine RBIs and has played well in the field.
"He's remained calm," manager A.J. Hinch told the Arizona Republic. "He's got a good demeanor, he's very competitive, not too high, too low. I think his defense is much better than I anticipated."
Vazquez masterful in going the distance: Javier Vazquez was dominant through eight innings, leading Atlanta to a 9-2 rout of St. Louis on Sunday. Vazquez finished with a complete-game seven-hitter, the first route-going performance for a Braves pitcher this season.
"One of the best games I've ever seen pitched through eight innings," Braves manager Bobby Cox told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "Reminded me of some of the [Greg] Maddux games."
Kendrick impressive in first start of season: For the first time this season, Kyle Kendrick made a start for the Phillies on Sunday, picking up the victory in his team's 5-4 win over the Mets. Over 7 1/3 innings, Kendrick allowed just two runs while striking out three.
"It felt good," Kendrick told MLB.com. "I really enjoyed that. That was fun. To get that today was pretty special."
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.