Ben Zobrist named Rays MVP

Tampa Bay Rays second baseman Ben Zobrist (18) runs to first in the fourth inning during the MLB game between the New York Yankees and the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Florida on Wednesday, September 17, 2014. EVE EDELHEIT   |   Times
Tampa Bay Rays second baseman Ben Zobrist (18) runs to first in the fourth inning during the MLB game between the New York Yankees and the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Florida on Wednesday, September 17, 2014.EVE EDELHEIT | Times
Published September 20 2014
Updated September 20 2014

ST. PETERSBURG — Don Zimmer spent his life preaching the importance of the little things in baseball, with INF/OF Ben Zobrist among those soaking up the details.

Those little things added up to a big team award for Zobrist, who was named the club's MVP by the Tampa Bay chapter of the Baseball Writers' Association of America. The award is now named after Zimmer, the former team senior baseball adviser who died in June.

"It's special that my name's on the same plaque as his name for something," said Zobrist, who was presented the award by Zimmer's widow, Soot, at a Friday luncheon.

Zobrist received four of the nine first-place votes to edge LHP Jake McGee and 3B Evan Longoria. He also received the award in 2009.

Zobrist ranks among the Rays' leaders with a .268 batting average, 73 walks and 47 RBIs. With another steal, he'll become the third player with double-digit steals and home runs in each of the last six years.

top rookie: The BBWAA named RHP Jake Odorizzi the club's outstanding rookie, ahead of OFs Kevin Kiermaier and Brandon Guyer.

Odorizzi leads the club with 171 strikeouts and is five away from setting a club record. His success comes after a slow start to the year. He battled to earn the final spot in the rotation, then posted a 6.85 ERA in the first month of the season. He has a 3.34 ERA since.

"I think what made me what I am now is that tough first month," Odorizzi said. "As much as I hate it and want to forget about it, it's changed me as a pitcher and changed me for the better."

Longoria was the recipient of the Paul C. Smith Champion Award, given to the Ray who best exemplifies the spirit of professionalism on and off the field. Longoria joins former Rays James Shields and Carl Crawford as the only players to earn all three BBWAA awards for the team.

not-so-minor matters: The Rays honored their farm system Friday, with OF Johnny Field named the organization's minor-league player of the year and LHP Blake Snell its minor-league pitcher of the year. Field batted .290 in 82 games for Class A Bowling Green, then hit .320 in 40 games after a promotion to the Advanced A Stone Crabs.

"This was a goal to try to have a huge year and to put myself in this position," Field said, "so to accomplish this is by far the biggest highlight of my life in terms of accomplishing an individual goal."

The 21-year-old Snell posted a 1.79 ERA in Bowling Green before jumping to Port Charlotte, where he had a 5-6 record and 3.94 ERA. The 2011 first-rounder had one of the organization's highlights — a 51/3-inning, rain-shortened no-hitter last month.

RHP Jake Faria received the Erik Walker community Champion Award for teamwork, sportsmanship and community service.

Bullpen bits: The Rays were without reliever Brad Boxberger, whose wife gave birth Thursday and is expected to return Sunday. RHP Steve Geltz struck out three of the five batters he faced in a perfect relief appearance.

miscellany: Tonight's game will not be televised. … 2B Logan Forsythe tied his career high with three RBIs. His home run was his sixth of the season, and he had his first multi-RBI game since Aug. 14. … INF/OF Sean Rodriguez was absent because of a death in the family and could be back as early as Sunday. … The team is eight strikeouts away from the club record of 1,383, set in 2012.

Contact Matt Baker at [email protected] Follow @MBakerTBTimes.

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