ST. PETERSBURG — Logan Forsythe started his season with the Rays expecting to again be a part-time player. He finished the season as their most valuable player.
Taking advantage of an injury-created opportunity to play regularly in the majors for the first time, Forsythe produced a special season, capped by Friday's selection as winner of the Don Zimmer MVP award by the Tampa Bay chapter of the Baseball Writers Association of America.
"They had enough faith in me to put me out there every day, and I tried to come out and be as consistent as I could and play the game the right way," Forsythe said. "And it ended up being a pretty good year."
Right-hander Nathan Karns was voted the team's outstanding rookie based on his 7-5, 3.67 performance after unexpectedly landing a spot in the injury-ravaged rotation. Ace Chris Archer was chosen the winner of the Paul C. Smith Champion Award, given to the player who best exemplifies the spirit of true professionalism.
All three were honored at a luncheon banquet hosted by the Clutch Hitters and introduced before Friday's game.
Forsythe, 28, was slated for the lesser side of platoon duty at second base until Nick Franklin strained an oblique toward the end of spring training, leading to the chance to play every day.
And play Forsythe did, ranking not just among the Rays leaders but all American League second basemen with 17 home runs, 68 RBIs and an .803 on-base plus slugging percentage, essentially replacing the production the Rays lost in trading Ben Zobrist.
"We think we've got a lot of valuable players, but Logan is right at the top of that list," manager Kevin Cash said. "Just the consistency, making the most of the opportunity speaks volumes about what he's done this year.
"He's had a tremendous season offensively, defensively. And he's evolved over this season as being a leader and become more vocal. I think you are afforded that ability when you go out the way he does every night and the way he carries himself."
Several Rays said they were pleased to see Forsythe recognized for what he did this season because of how he handled himself last season when, after being acquired from San Diego, he was limited to occasional duty, making 75 starts.
"It couldn't have happened to a better person," centerfielder Kevin Kiermaier said. "You saw him last year being a bench guy the whole year and having a great attitude with it. … For him to do what he did this year is such a cool thing to see. He's such a great guy. He's the guy we want up at the plate in a big situation this year. He's been so reliable on the offensive side and defense."
Added Archer: "His outlook has always been, whatever I can do to help this team most. … And he showed that mentality is the best one to possibly have."
The 17 home runs stand out as the most surprising part of Forsythe's season, given that he hit only 18 in 338 games in his first four big-league seasons.
But Forsythe, who was scratched from Friday's lineup due to lingering soreness in his bruised right foot but hopes to play tonight, said he was most pleased with the consistency, and staying relatively healthy given the unprecedented workload, acknowledging "the grind" of the final weeks.
"I thank my teammates for motivating me," Forsythe said. "They kept me going out there every day playing for them."