ST. PETERSBURG — In an extremely close vote, LF Carl Crawford was named the Rays' most valuable player Wednesday by the Tampa Bay chapter of the Baseball Writers' Association of America.
Crawford, who received six first-place votes and 43 points, edged closer Rafael Soriano, who had five first-place votes and 41 points, in the closest MVP vote in the award's 13 years.
"I'm grateful for the award," Crawford said. "It's definitely a special award to me."
Both players had a strong case for MVP. Crawford, a four-time All-Star, is having arguably the best season of his career, with a .309 average, 17 homers, 88 RBIs and 46 stolen bases. Soriano, in his first season with the Rays, has a club-record 44 saves.
LHP David Price earned one first-place vote and 14 points. Third baseman Evan Longoria (10 points) was the only other player to receive a vote.
Crawford also won the Paul C. Smith Champion Award for best exemplifying the spirit of professionalism on and off the field. Ben Zobrist was second in the voting and RHP James Shields third.
To add to Crawford's big night, he heard the capacity crowd chant, "Carl Crawford! Carl Crawford!" during the game. Crawford, a free agent after the season, said it was the first time that has happened to him at Tropicana Field in his nine big-league seasons.
"It was real cool," he said.
RHP Wade Davis was voted top rookie with 52 points, beating C John Jaso (42) and INF Reid Brignac (14). Davis has come on strong at the end of the season, tying a Rays record with a seven-game winning streak that was snapped Monday.
Longoria update: Longoria (strained left quad) was encouraged Wednesday after "everything felt normal" during a batting practice session and said he'd be available off the bench tonight in Kansas City.
Manager Joe Maddon said, however, that Longoria probably won't play because they Rays are being "overly cautious" with him.
Longoria, who has missed six games, said the next step is testing himself more defensively, having not taken ground balls while moving side to side. He still is expected to return to the lineup during this weekend's series.
"I felt good hitting," Longoria said, "which is the biggest thing right now."
PRICE to relieve? Though Price won't make his final scheduled start Sunday in Kansas City, Maddon said there's a chance he could throw a few innings out of the bullpen during the series to keep him sharp for the American League Division Series, which begins Oct. 6.
If, as expected, Price starts Game 1, that would give him seven days between starts.
The Rays could start RHP Andy Sonnanstine or RHP Jeremy Hellickson in place of Price. Maddon said they haven't decided, adding that no matter who starts, they won't go very deep in the game.
He also said their approach to the game might depend on "if that game really matters, in a sense," as in playing for the American League East title.
FAMILY MATTERS: RHP Joaquin Benoit missed his second game to be in the Dominican Republic for the birth of his child. He is expected to rejoin the team today.
BREAKING AWAY: What had RHP Matt Garza encouraged after his last start — and confident going forward — was how he threw his breaking balls for strikes. As a result, Garza gave up just one run over seven innings after allowing at least five runs in each of his previous three outings.
"It's more of a feel thing, not trying to overdo anything, not trying to make the perfect pitch," Garza said. "It's just trying to throw a good strike."
Garza said being able to locate his curveball and slider better made his fastball more effective.