Tampa Bay Rays
Rays' Hellickson named AL Rookie of the Year
ST. PETERSBURG - Jeremy Hellickson held his right arm in the air, his hand balled in a fist, and followed the baseball as it was passed around the infield, from third base to second to first. A triple play. And when it was over, Hellickson pumped his fist as he bounced toward the dugout. Hellickson's triple play-inducing ground ball against the Yankees during the second-to-last game of the regular season was one of the bigger moments in the Rays' run to the playoffs and produced a rare display of emotion from the young pitcher. His laidback demeanor, whether talking about a complete-game shutout, a start pushed back or an excellent outing undermined by a lack of offense, seldom changes. "His composure is well beyond his years," Rays pitcher James Shields said. "And because of that I think he's on the right track."That even-keel attitude helped Hellickson negotiate his way through his first full big-league season, which culminated Monday when he was named the American League Rookie of the Year by the Baseball Writers' Association of America. "I was definitely very excited," Hellickson, 24, said. "It's something I really wanted to win. Three or four other guys, I felt, were definitely deserving, so I'm definitely very excited." Hellickson, who joins 2008 winner Evan Longoria as the only Rays to be named rookie of the year, earned 17 of the 28 first-place votes and finished with 102 points, easily outdistancing Angels first baseman Mark Trumbo (.254 average, 29 home runs, 87 RBIs), who received five first-place votes and 63 points. Two members of the BBWAA in each American League city vote for three players. Players receive five points for a first-place vote, three for a second-place vote and one for a third-place vote. Rays left fielder Desmond Jennings received one third-place vote and was tied for seventh. Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer (.293, 19 home runs, 78 RBIs) was third with 38 points (four first-place votes). Yankees pitcher Ivan Nova (16-4, 3.70 ERA) was fourth with 30 points (one first-place vote). "There was no wrong choice," Hellickson said. Hellickson, who was 13-10 in 29 starts, is the 10th starting pitcher to win the award and second in the past 30 years, joining Justin Verlander of the Tigers, who won in 2006. "If I have half the success as he is having right now in five years I'll definitely be happy," Hellickson said. Hellickson stood out this season to the voters by crafting one of the best rookie seasons by a pitcher in some time. He led all rookie pitchers in ERA (2.95), innings pitched (189), starts (29), quality starts (20) and opponents' batting average (.210). His ERA was eighth overall in the American League and opponents' batting average third lowest in the majors behind Verlander (.192) and the Dodgers' Clayton Kershaw (.207). Since 1900, only five rookies who pitched enough innings to qualify for the ERA title finished with an ERA and opponents' average as low as Hellickson's. With better support from the offense, Hellickson could have had a better record. He received one run or less of support in nine of his 10 losses. The Rays were shutout in five of Hellickson's starts. "You couldn't ask for anything more from a rookie pitcher in this league," Shields said. "Especially pitching in (the American League East), which I think is the toughest division in baseball." When asked what stood out the most about his rookie season, Hellickson quickly answered with the Rays' winning the Wild Card and reaching the postseason. As for personal achievements, he was proud of his ERA. "I think I improved on everything toward the end of the year that I wanted to improve on, holding runners on (base), my time to the plate," he said. "I feel like I did a good job of that this year. "I'll find something else to improve on and do that this offseason."