Notes: Top Rays receive awards

Notes: Top Rays receive awards

ST. PETERSBURG -- The Tampa chapter of the Baseball Writers Association of America held a pregame presentation on Monday to hand out its annual awards.

Right-hander James Shields barely nudged out Delmon Young for Outstanding Rookie accolades, and the distinction isn't lost on him.

"It's an honor," Shields said. "And it proves that I worked hard this season. It's another thing at the end of the season to assure myself I did a good job."

On a team loaded with players getting their first bite of the big leagues, Shields excelled. He has posted a 6-8 record and a 4.84 ERA, which doesn't quite reflect his calm on the mound. It overshadows the fact that he started his career 4-0 and received little run support afterward. But Shields toiled away, eventually establishing himself as a premier rookie on a roster filled with young talent.

"I felt this year I've done everything I could do to improve myself going into next year, so next year I've got a good idea how to approach [next season]."

Shields credits offseason workouts with his cousin, Philadelphia's Aaron Rowand, as something that got him over the top and in peak condition heading into his first Major League season.

In other awards, left fielder Carl Crawford took home the Most Valuable Player Award and the Paul C. Smith Champion Award, which is presented annually to the player who best exemplifies the spirit of true professionalism on and off the field.

Giving thanks: Tampa Bay closed out its home season Monday at Tropicana Field with a slew of giveaways, including the "Shirts off our Backs" campaign, in which the Rays will give autographed jerseys to fans immediately after the game. Rays manager Joe Maddon said it's the least the team can do for helping what he calls "The Pit" come alive this season.

"From my perspective on the field, there's a pretty good intensity," he said. "It matters. It absolutely matters, and I think fans understand that but I want them to know it absolutely does matter. The interaction before the games has been spectacular all season.

"They let us know they understand what we're doing, and that they understand about the patient side of things. From watching this whole thing grow this year, I'm very appreciative of the fan support."

Bugged: Jorge Cantu sat out for the fourth straight game on Monday with flu-like symptoms. Maddon said his second baseman was feeling better but was still not 100 percent. The case seems to be an isolated issue, according to trainer Ron Porterfield.

A new look: Maddon said after Sunday's game that he'd like to see the infield dirt changed to artificial turf in time for next season.

"The uniqueness [of the park] is the dirt on the infield, but I don't really think that works in anybody's favor," he said. "Our groundskeepers, they work their [rear ends] off. But it's so hard to maintain that inside, with the moisture content and everything else."

He said it: "He's kind of a little bit like an Irish setter, he's a little bit antsy, but as he settles in he really takes command, and I like the way he does that." -- Maddon, on right-hander Brian Stokes

Road warrior: The Rays go on the road to close out their season, with two games at Boston and four against Cleveland. Tampa Bay is a dismal 2-28 away from the friendly confines of Tropicana Field in the second half, leaving some to wonder whether the Rays actually dread away games, or expect to lose them. Maddon set the record straight.

"I can't wait [to go]," he said. "I can't wait. We're going to get this right. It's a good thing, let's go.

"It's frustrating, it's annoying, it's aggravating, it's all those 'ings', but at some point it's going to tip in our favor."

By the numbers: Tampa Bay has scored five or more runs in an inning just eight times this year -- fewest in the Major Leagues -- but Sunday's six-run fourth inning and five-run fifth marked the second time this season the Rays have scored five or more in an inning twice in the same game. Before Sunday, Tampa Bay had accomplished the feat just three times in the organization's history.

Did you know?: If the Rays defeat the Yankees on Monday night, it'll mark the team's 42nd home win of the year, setting an organization record.

Up next: Tampa Bay heads to Boston for two games against the Red Sox. Right-hander Jason Hammel (0-4, 7.01 ERA) takes the mound for the Rays on Tuesday night in the opener, while Boston counters with right-hander Curt Schilling (14-7, 4.07 ERA). Game time is set for 7:05 p.m. ET.

Dawn Klemish is an associate reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.