Baseball: Oakland’s Bailey wins rookie of the year award
NEW YORK — Florida Marlins left fielder Chris Coghlan won the National League Rookie of the Year award in a close vote Monday, and Oakland Athletics closer Andrew Bailey took the AL honor.
Coghlan edged Philadelphia Phillies pitcher J.A. Happ, receiving 17 first-place votes and 105 points in balloting by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. Happ, the only player picked on all 32 ballots, had 10 first-place votes and 94 points.
“It’s very exciting,” Coghlan said. “I couldn’t have written it better.”
Bailey, a surprise All-Star this season, was selected first on 13 of 28 ballots and finished with 88 points. Texas shortstop Elvis Andrus was the runner-up with 65 points, one more than Detroit pitcher Rick Porcello.
Bailey, who had 26 saves and a 1.84 ERA, was driving when he got word on his cell phone that he won.
“At first I thought it was a prank call. Which one of my friends is playing a prank on me?” he said. “I didn’t want to take my eyes off the road.”
Once he realized the news was legit, Bailey passed it along to his family.
“My mom was crying and my dad was stoked,” he said.
Coghlan dug himself out of an early slump and had a superb second half. Emerging as pesky leadoff hitter for the Marlins, he batted .321 with nine homers and 31 doubles in 128 games. He scored 84 runs and drove in 47.
Called up from the minors in May, the 24-year-old Coghlan topped NL rookies in batting average, runs, hits (162), total bases (232) and on-base percentage (.390). He became the third Florida player to win the award, joining shortstop Hanley Ramirez (2006) and pitcher Dontrelle Willis (2003).
“At the end of the year I knew that I put myself in a good position to win,” Coghlan said.
A second baseman in the minors, Coghlan was with Triple-A New Orleans this year when the Marlins told him they wanted to try him in the outfield.
He played one minor league game in left — without getting a fly ball — and then was brought up to the majors. He finished the season with five errors.
“A lot of people think I’m pretty bad out there. But I think it’s an adjustment,” Coghlan said. “I have confidence playing the outfield. It was a situation I embraced to get me to the big leagues the quickest and to help the team win games.”
Happ’s versatility was a huge plus for the Phillies, who won their second consecutive NL pennant before losing to the New York Yankees in the World Series.
The left-hander went 12-4 with a 2.93 ERA in 35 games, including 23 starts.
He led NL rookies in innings (166), strikeouts (119) and complete games (three).
Atlanta pitcher Tommy Hanson finished third in a competitive field with two first-place votes and 37 points. Pittsburgh outfielder Andrew McCutchen, who came in fourth, also was chosen first on a pair of ballots. Milwaukee infielder Casey McGehee received the other first-place vote.
“When you get up there’s so many different aspects to the game. … It takes a while to get comfortable in a routine,” Coghlan said. “In the second half, things turned around and it all ended well. In the beginning it wasn’t as easy as it was at the end of the year.”
Bailey went 6-3 and had 24 more saves than any other AL rookie. He also led the league’s rookie pitchers in ERA.
He is the eighth A’s player to win the award, tying the New York Yankees for most in the AL.
“I can’t feel disappointed,” Andrus said. “Andrew Bailey is a great player, He had a great season, too.”
Bailey was struggling as a starter in Double-A last year when the A’s moved him to the bullpen. Turned out to be a terrific decision.
In his first big league camp, Bailey made the Oakland roster and soon got an opportunity to close partly due to injuries. He took advantage of it, earning a trip to the All-Star game in July as the team’s lone representative.
The 25-year-old right-hander struck out 91 and walked 24 in 83 1-3 innings. He yielded only 47 hits, holding opponents to a .167 batting average.
“Certainly the first credit goes to Andrew. It’s also a credit to our staff and the people who saw the change to the bullpen being a good step,” general manager Billy Beane said. “He had always been a prospect, but as a starter he hit a wall. There was a suggestion to move him to the bullpen and he hasn’t looked back. Since he made the switch to the ‘pen he’s been dominant.”
Bailey became the third Oakland player in six years to win the award, joining closer Huston Street (2005) and shortstop Bobby Crosby (2004).
After hearing the news, Bailey packed a bag and rushed to the airport to catch a flight to Oakland for a news conference Tuesday.
“It’s been a crazy day,” he said.
The AL Cy Young Award winner will be announced today.