ST. PETERSBURG — Add this to the list of things Ben Zobrist didn't expect to be doing this season: receiving the team MVP award.
Zobrist — whose breakout season includes 27 home runs, 91 RBIs, a .296 average and starts at eight positions — was voted most valuable player by the Tampa Bay chapter of the Baseball Writers Association of America.
Carl Crawford was second and Evan Longoria third.
"It's a huge honor,'' Zobrist said. "Any one of four or five guys could have gotten it.''
"I love that Ben was named MVP,'' manager Joe Maddon said. "He did deserve it.''
Pitcher Jeff Niemann was unanimous winner of the outstanding rookie award, and first baseman Carlos Peña, for the second time in three years, won the Paul C. Smith Champion Award, given to the player who best exemplifies the spirit of true professionalism on and off the field.
Marc Topkin, Times staff writer