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Crawford among Rays' award hopefuls

Crawford among Rays' award hopefuls

ST. PETERSBURG -- Even though the Rays did not advance to the postseason in 2009, the team has several players in the running to receive awards commemorating their outstanding seasons.

On Tuesday, the American League Gold Glove winners will be announced. The Rawlings Gold Glove Award rewards fielding excellence at each position, with the winners at each position being elected by a vote of managers and coaches in each league. The lone clarification comes in the outfield voting, which rewards the three best fielding outfielders regardless of whether they play left, center or right fields.

Rays first baseman Carlos Pena became the first Rays player to earn a Gold Glove when he did so in 2008. Though still the same flashy fielder in '09, Pena had 10 errors, so it's not likely he'll repeat. But the team potentially has two candidates in Carl Crawford and Evan Longoria.

Crawford, who made a game-saving catch in the All-Star Game to earn the MVP Award, has dominated in left field for Tampa Bay. Using his speed and athleticism, Crawford reaches balls that normally would fall in for base hits. He had four errors in 2009, so the vote will have to look past those miscues to all the unbelievable catches and plays he made that other outfielders likely could not have made.

Longoria could earn his first Gold Glove based on his .970 fielding percentage, which ranked second among AL third basemen to Melvin Mora's .971. Combine that consistency with the way the second-year star has fielded the position, including an uncanny ability to charge bunts, and there's a good chance he could win the award.

Rookie of the Year Awards will be handed out next Monday, and Jeff Niemann could be the Rays second consecutive winner, following Longoria, who was the 2008 AL Rookie of the Year.

Niemann went 13-6 with a 3.94 ERA in 31 games during his rookie campaign. The 6-foot-9 right-hander's main competition for the award will likely be Rangers shortstop Elvis Andrus, White Sox third baseman Gordon Beckham, A's closer Andrew Bailey and Tigers starter Rick Porcello.

Winners of the Silver Slugger Award will be announced Thursday and recognizes the best offensive player at each position in both leagues based on several different offensive categories and voted on by the coaches and managers. Just like the Gold Glove Award, the outfielders recognized can play any one of the outfield positions. In addition, in the AL, there is a Silver Slugger Award for the DH, while in the NL there is a Silver Slugger Award for the best hitting pitcher.

Crawford, Longoria, shortstop Jason Bartlett and second baseman Ben Zobrist all will have a shot at coming away with a Silver Slugger Award.

Crawford had the fourth-highest batting average among AL outfielders, while also causing untold offensive disruptions with his speed. Longoria led all AL third basemen in home runs and RBIs.

Bartlett had the second-highest batting average for AL shortstops behind Derek Jeter, but he sported a higher slugging percentage than the Yankees shortstop. Zobrist had the best power numbers among his peers at second base, but he also played some right field, which could detract from his chances.

Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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