ST. PETERSBURG — RF Steven Souza Jr. had one goal coming into this season, and that was to stay healthy.
Souza, who missed 52 games in 2015 and 42 last season because of injuries, wanted to see what he could accomplished in those extra 40 or 50 games. The answer: a career year.
That year earned him the Don Zimmer Award as the team MVP as voted on by the Tampa Bay chapter of the Baseball Writers' Association of America.
Souza, who played in his 147th game Friday, set career highs this season in games, home runs (30), hits (125), doubles (21), RBIs (78), walks (80), stolen bases (16) and runs (77). He also set a career high with 177 strikeouts.
If goal No. 1 was health, goal No. 2 was patience at the plate.
"I wanted to pick my spots a lot better," he said. "I think the last couple of years I got way too aggressive and was swinging to swing. I think I was told if you don't swing three times, you don't have a good chance of getting a hit, so that's what I was doing. This year I came in and zoned in on a spot, doing a lot more homework on pitchers, picking pitches to look at, sitting on pitches, waiting them out and being disciplined and when I got them not trying to do too much with them."
Manager Kevin Cash said Souza was the Rays' most consistent player for much of the season.
"That amount of games when he impacts us offensively, scoring a run, driving in a run, we're a really good team," Cash said. "He's right in the middle of a lot of those things."
Odorizzi leaves with injury
RHP Jake Odorizzi (right) left Friday's game against the Orioles in the fifth inning with right knee soreness. Assistant trainer Mark Vinson and manager Kevin Cash went to the mound to check on Odorizzi, who left without throwing a warmup pitch. "Maybe fault me for being overly cautious at this point of the season," manager Kevin Cash said. "Just felt it was best to get him out of the game at that point."
Cobb, Faria also honored
RHP Alex Cobb received the Paul C. Smith Award as the Ray who best exemplifies the spirit of true professionalism on and off the field. Cobb received his award during the annual Clutch Hitters of Tampa Bay's Rays awards luncheon. Cobb was visibly moved while accepting the award and thanking those in the room for their support over his career with the team, which will likely end this winter when Cobb becomes a free agent. RHP Jacob Faria was voted the outstanding rookie.
Major honors for minor leaguers
Class A Bowling Green OF Jesus Sanchez was named the organization's minor-league player of the year and Triple-A Durham RHP Yonny Chirinos minor-league pitcher of the year.
Most Valuable Player for each level: INF Willy Adames (Durham), OF Justin Williams (Double-A Montgomery), INF Brandon Lowe (Class A Charlotte), Sanchez (Bowling Green), INF Vidal Brujan (short season Class A Hudson Valley), C Ronaldo Hernandez (rookie league Princeton), INF Jonathan Aranda (Gulf Coast League), OF Yunior Martinez (Dominican Summer League Rays 1) and OF Aldenis Sanchez (Dominican Summer League Rays 2).
Also, Charlotte SS Lucius Fox was named baserunner of the year, reliever of the year was Durham RH Diego Castillo and defensive player of the year was Montgomery C Nick Ciuffo. Bowling Green INF Miles Mastrobuoni was named the Erik Walker Community Champion.
. CF Kevin Kiermaier (left) did not start for the second straight game because of a bug he picked up while in New York. He expects to return tonight or Sunday.
. Manager Kevin Cash said INF Daniel Robertson could see time next season in the outfield.