2007 Players Choice Awards presented
Teammates and opponents chose the best of last season
Presentations are being made to 2007 Players Choice Awards winners around the Major Leagues this month.
On Saturday in Anaheim, Torii Hunter received the Marvin Miller Man of the Year award, which honors the player whose on- and off-field accomplishments most inspire others to a higher level of achievement. Angels player representative John Lackey made the presentation on behalf of his fellow players.
Meanwhile in Milwaukee, Prince Fielder received his Players Choice Award as the NL's Outstanding Player and Ryan Braun his as the league's Outstanding Rookie. Brewers player representative Dave Bush made the pregame presentations.
Hunter established the Torii Hunter Project, which has partnered with Little League Baseball's Urban Initiative to help improve and maintain the condition of baseball diamonds in urban America. He also provides personal and financial support for Athletes in Action and Big Brothers and Big Sisters. In 2007, Hunter, considered one of the best defensive center fielders of his era, also established career highs in hits (172), doubles (45) and RBIs (107) in 2007.
In Hunter's honor, the Major League Baseball Players Trust will award a $50,000 grant to the charity of his choice.
The Trust is awarding grants of $20,000 each for Fielder and Braun, who has already chosen the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Milwaukee and Habitat for Humanity to receive $10,000 each. Together, the winners of 2007 Players Choice Awards will designate $260,000 to various charities.
Since 1992, the Players Choice Awards winners have contributed more than $3 million.
Alex Rodriguez was scheduled to receive Player of the Year and AL Outstanding Player awards at Yankee Stadium on Monday night as Dmitri Young receives his award as the NL comeback player for 2007 in Washington, D.C.
Carlos Pena, AL comeback player, will have a pre-game ceremony on Tuesday night in St. Petersburg, and Dustin Pedroia, AL Outstanding Rookie, will be honored Wednesday evening in Boston.
C.C. Sabathia will receive his Players Choice Award as the AL's Outstanding Pitcher on April 14 in Cleveland while Jake Peavy will be presented the NL's Outstanding Pitcher award on April 26 in San Diego.
Sheets goes the distance in shutout: For the first time since he was a rookie, Ben Sheets threw a shutout as he blanked San Francisco, 7-0. Sheets' last shutout came May 29, 2001, against St. Louis.
Sheets needed only 109 pitches to finish off the Giants, allowing only five hits while striking out eight.
"[I'm a] big league pitcher -- that's what we're supposed to do," Sheets told The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. "Some days we're supposed to be good."
Sheets started the game throwing 95 mph and never let off the gas pedal. He struck out the side in the first inning, using his fastball to set up a sharp curveball to strike out Dave Roberts, Eugenio Velez and Fred Lewis.
"I watched what he did to the guys in front of me," Lewis said. "He did me the same way. He continued the same process over and over, and we weren't smart enough to catch on."
Neck spasms send Berkman to the bench: After leaving Saturday's game against Chicago in the third inning with neck spasms, Lance Berkman was out of the lineup Sunday as well. Berkman, however, was able to move his neck much more easily than on Saturday.
"Last night I was like, 'This thing is starting to feel better,'" Berkman told The Houston Chronicle. "Then I turned my neck a certain way and it was -- I wouldn't call it paralyzing -- but it certainly sent a jolt, and I was like, 'Oh, no.' But I've got a lot more flexibility. I can turn my neck a little further than I could yesterday."
Tulowitzki putting in extra time on fielding: If anyone was worried that Troy Tulowitzki would take his outstanding rookie season in 2007 for granted, think again.
Before the Rockies' weekend series against the Diamondbacks, Tulowitzki was taking ground balls. He had committed two errors in his first four games this season. Last year, he had only 11 errors.
"I am not going to make any excuses. I put myself in a bad position to field the ball. I took extra groundballs to get my timing down," Tulowitzki told The Denver Post. "When I don't feel good about my defense, I am never happy."
According to Tulowitzki, it would be nearly impossible for him to accept his two errors.
"I wouldn't be myself if I just let things go by," Tulowitzki said. "I beat myself up a little too much, but that's what got me here."
Eckstein making strong impression in Toronto: During the offseason, Toronto signed David Eckstein, who despite unimpressive physical tools has been the starting shortstop and catalyst on two World Series-winning clubs.
"He sets the tone for us," Toronto bench coach Brian Butterfield told The Boston Herald. "From the first play of the game, how many guys in this league are going to dive to avoid a tag instead of running straight through the bag? When we were in New York [for a season-opening series] he hit a ball right back to the pitcher but we still got him at around 4.1 [seconds] to first base. A routine out! How many guys do that? He sets the tone for us in so many ways. I love him."
Giambi leaves game with groin injury: Jason Giambi's day ended early on Saturday when the Yankees slugger had to leave the game in the fifth inning due to a strained left groin.
Giambi said he felt something wrong as he rounded second base in the third inning on Robinson Cano's single.
"It was just a situation where it got tight," he told Newsday. "With it being so early in the season, a little bit cold and me DHing, [Rob Thomson] just said go in there and make sure it's OK. It feels pretty good right now."
Lohse continues to shine with Cardinals: Kyle Lohse, fresh off of five shutout innings on Opening Day, came back with seven shutout innings on Sunday against the Washington Nationals in the Cardinals' 3-0 victory.
"Oh, man," Cardinals manager Tony La Russa told MLB.com. "Seven shutout innings. He threw the ball so well and made some really good pitches. If he pitches like that all year, he could spoil us. He was really, really good. The relievers dotted the "I," too."
Zambrano finds first-pitch strike effective: Carlos Zambrano had to leave his first start in the seventh inning after suffering from cramps in his pitching hand. Now, after several days of being force-fed bananas to help increase his potassium levels, he told MLB.com that he feels "like a monkey now."
It's working, because on Sunday, Zambrano went seven innings in the Cubs' 3-2 win over Houston and in doing so, did not walk a batter for the first time in nearly a year.
"I am throwing the ball where I want and using my pitches," he said. "The key is to pound the ball in the zone and go out and throw strikes. Like my pitching coach told me in Spring Training, I need to get the first-pitch strike, and that will be the key for me all year long. That's what I did today."
Martinez targeted for return to lineup: Victor Martinez is expected back in the lineup on Monday after missing five consecutive starts with a strained left hamstring.
"Victor ran around out here real well this morning," Cleveland manager Eric Wedge told The Cleveland Plain Dealer. "We'll bring Victor out early Monday and let him run the bases. If he feels all right, he'll be in the lineup that night."
Loewen returns from elbow surgery: Adam Loewen, who had season-ending surgery on his elbow last June, allowed four runs in 4 2/3 innings on Saturday in his first start back.
"He's going to be real special," Baltimore manager Dave Trembley told The Washington Post. "He's big, he's young, he's left-handed. He's not going to reach his potential until three or four years down the road. That's how I see it."
Volquez the latest Reds youngster to shine: Reds rookie Edinson Volquez gave up just one run and five hits in 5 1/3 innings in his debut on Sunday, an 8-2 victory over the Phillies.
"I feel really excited right now," Volquez told The Cincinnati Enquirer. "I [got] my first win in Cincinnati."
Manager Dusty Baker liked what he saw out of the young pitcher. "Stuff gets you out of jams, and he threw the pitches and strikes when he needed to," said Baker.
Nomo's back and in the bullpen: Veteran pitcher Hideo Nomo is back in the Major Leagues -- this time with the Kansas City Royals -- but will be working out of the bullpen instead of starting for the Royals.
"Yeah, Hideo's back," manager Trey Hillman told MLB.com. "He's deemed healthy, he feels good and we want to see if he can continue to miss bats with the same frequency he did in Spring Training. We need to find out sooner than later."
Nomo just wants to stay healthy and do what he can to help the Royals win games.
"All I can do is keep my body healthy and continue to play. It's been a while since 2005, and I look forward to throwing and to going to the playoffs," Nomo said through translator Shingo Matsubara.
Smoltz closing in on 3,000 strikeouts: Following an abbreviated Spring Training, John Smoltz out-pitched Johan Santana, throwing five innings of shutout ball to lead the Braves to a 3-1 victory and a two-game sweep.
"Smoltzie is funny like that," Chipper Jones told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "He always seems to rise to the challenge. I can't think of a bigger challenge than having to face the Mets and Santana."
Smoltz allowed two hits and struck out six in his outing. He is now just 20 strikeouts shy of 3,000 for his career.
"I can't tell you the relief it was to get out there," said Smoltz, who felt the pressure to create his own spring training regimen and showing it could work. "I try to execute the plan all spring and it was almost perfect, and then you had a little setback. Then you've got to deal with 'I'm a start away, a pitch away [from retirement].' "
Helms returns to Marlins: The Marlins acquired corner infielder Wes Helms from the Phillies for future considerations. Helms enjoyed his best season as a professional in his previous stint with the Marlins, when he hit .329 with a .390 on-base percentage and a .575 slugging mark in 140 games in 2006. He left Florida after that one season and signed a two-year free-agent deal with Philadelphia. But he hit just .246 in his first season with the Phillies, who signed Pedro Feliz to be their third baseman this season.
"Last year I had an off year. I will be the first one to admit it," Helms told The South Florida Sun-Sentinel. "I feel good this year. I am healthy and ready to go, and this is a good spot for me."
Lannan has no problem with late callup: The Nationals recalled John Lannan to make Sunday's start for the injured Shawn Hill. Lannan did everything he could to make it more than a one-start stint in the Majors, as he pitched 6 2/3 innings and allowed just two runs in a 3-0 loss to the Cardinals.
"He's tough," catcher Paul Lo Duca told The Washington Post. "That kid's going to be a good pitcher in this league for a long time if he throws like that. He's not scared."
Lannan walked the first batter he faced and allowed single runs in the first and third innings, but he settled down for a quality start.
"Coming up here and first start, you're always nervous a little bit," Lannan said. "You're trying to get comfortable."
Kendrick off to torrid start: Howie Kendrick has hit safely in the first seven games and leads the Angels with a .444 batting average and six runs scored. He has a 12-game hitting streak, dating back to last season.
"Coming up I didn't really know many of the pitchers," Kendrick told The Los Angeles Times. "I was chasing a lot of balls out of the zone. I think every year you become a better player all around because you're getting that experience and learning pitchers."
Thumb causing issues for Wigginton: Ty Wigginton will have his left thumb examined further before the Astros decide if he should be placed on the disabled list. Wigginton suffered a small fracture in his thumb on Saturday against the Chicago Cubs while applying a tag on Jason Marquis.
Wigginton hopes to avoid a trip to the disabled list, saying the injury feels more like a jammed thumb.
"It never cut," he told The Houston Chronicle. "I stayed in the game. I tried to have another [at-bat]. I went back out to the field and I knew at that point something wasn't exactly right there. ... When I went to put my hand in my glove we threw the ball around that inning. Miggy [Tejada threw me the ball and I was like, 'Ooh.'"
First start is a success for Eveland: Dana Eveland made the A's out of Spring Training as the club's fifth starter. After top two hurlers Joe Blanton and Rich Harden made two starts apiece, Eveland finally made his season debut on Saturday.
It was worth the wait for both Eveland and the A's, as the lefty, part of the package acquired from the Diamondbacks in the Dan Haren deal, gave up one run in seven innings and out-pitched reigning Cy Young Award winner C.C. Sabathia in a 6-1 victory over the A's. Eveland allowed just six hits and tied a career high with seven strikeouts.
"He's got good stuff, and if he throws strikes, he's going to be really good," A's second baseman Mark Ellis told The San Francisco Chronicle. "To go through that lineup the way he did is impressive."
Vizcaino placed on DL with shoulder injury: The Colorado Rockies are without the services of reliever Luis Vizcaino after he was placed on the 15-day disabled list this weekend because of a shoulder injury, The Denver Post reported.
Vizcaino was warming up during the seventh inning of Saturday's game when he said he felt some discomfort after throwing only six pitches. He was placed on the disabled list after the game and will undergo an MRI this week.
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.