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Rays’ Brandon Lowe named MVP by Tampa Bay baseball writers

Pete Fairbanks gets the nod for top rookie, and Kevin Kiermaier receives the award for professionalism.
The Rays' Brandon Lowe (8) connects for a home run against the Washington Nationals in the ninth inning at Tropicana Field on Sept. 16.
The Rays' Brandon Lowe (8) connects for a home run against the Washington Nationals in the ninth inning at Tropicana Field on Sept. 16. [ DIRK SHADD | Times ]
Published Sep. 25, 2020
Updated Sep. 26, 2020

ST. PETERSBURG — Brandon Lowe said there were a number of Rays players worthy of honors and accolades this season.

When he found out Friday that he had been voted to receive the Don Zimmer Most Valuable Player Award by the Tampa Bay members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America, he was quite flattered.

“It’s an honor,” Lowe, 26, said. “The production that we’ve had up and down the lineup, and some of the guys we have in that clubhouse that could have been voted MVP, it’s definitely an honor to have that award.”

Reliever Pete Fairbanks was voted Outstanding Rookie, and for the second straight season centerfielder Kevin Kiermaier received the Paul C. Smith Champion Award, given to the player who best exemplifies the spirit of true professionalism on and off the field.

Lowe, a 2019 All-Star who missed most of the second half with injury, again is putting up big numbers, leading the Rays and ranking among the AL’s best with 14 homers, a .933 OPS, 106 total bases, 25 extra-base hits, and a 2.1 WAR. The second baseman/outfielder also leads the Rays with 36 RBIs.

“He’s been tremendous,” manager Kevin Cash said. “Everything we’ve done offensively, all the good things, it seems like he’s right in the middle of. Whether it’s the big hit, the big home run. … When we’re down or tied, we feel really confident when Brandon’s walking up to the plate.”

Fairbanks, 26, is 5-3, 2.45 in a team-high 26 appearances, including two stints as an opener. The right-hander was surprised to hear he won the voting, which saw five different players get first-place votes.

“I figured you guys would pick a position player since we’re usually a bit of an afterthought down in the bullpen,” he said.

Kiermaier, 30, joined original Devil Ray John Flaherty as the only back-to-back winners.

“It means the world,” he said. “I’ve always wanted to put myself in a position, the position I am now, to be able to get back in and do your part in the community as one of the faces of a franchise. … It’s been a dream coming on the scene in 2014 and being able to do what I do, and I’m very proud of what I do off the field as well. I just try to lead by example and be professional on and off the field. I take a lot of pride in that.”