The players’ vote is in, and they believe Mariners ace Felix Hernandez was the American League’s best pitcher this season.
Hernandez beat out Cleveland’s Corey Kluber and Chicago’s Chris Sale for the Players Choice Award in balloting announced Monday by the players association on MLB Network.
“It is an honor to be selected by the players,” Hernandez said. “It’s an amazing feeling. There are a lot of great pitchers out there, and to be selected as the outstanding pitcher in the American League means a lot to me.”
The players also chose Mariners right-hander Chris Young, who recently became a free agent, as the AL’s comeback player of the year. He beat out two Detroit players: designated hitter Victor Martinez and outfielder J.D. Martinez.
“The game is hard enough when you’re healthy,” said Young, who missed most of 2012 while recovering from a third major shoulder surgery.
“To have the respect of my peers … there are so many worthy candidates, I’m extremely humbled and honored to be chosen.”
The awards included $20,000 donations from the union to the charity of the recipient’s choice. Hernandez designated the Make-a-Wish Foundation; Young chose DonorsChoose.org, which supports Seattle-area classrooms in need.
Hernandez previously won a similar honor as the AL’s top pitcher from The Sporting News, which polled league executives. Young was also TSN’s comeback player of the year in balloting by his peers.
The two awards seem to position Hernandez as the favorite to win the Cy Young Award, which will be announced Nov. 12. The Cy Young is determined by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America.
While a favorite, Hernandez is not necessarily a lock to win the Cy Young Award for the second time in his career. Ballots for the Cy Young are typically cast later in the season than the other two awards.
For example, Hernandez won the Cy Young Award by a landslide margin in 2010 after failing to win the Players Choice Award. The players that season selected then-Tampa Bay lefty David Price.
The BBWAA award finalists will be announced Tuesday.
Hernandez, 28, produced, perhaps, the best season of his career in 2014 by going 15-6 and leading the league with a 2.14 ERA. He also led the AL in WHIP (fewest walks and hits per innings pitched).
Young, 35, resurrected his injury-plagued career by going 12-9 with a 3.65 ERA. He signed a one-year deal with the Mariners as a free agent March 27 following his release by Washington.
His 12 victories matched a high in his 10-year career, and his 165 innings marked his heaviest workload since 2007.
2015 SPRING SCHEDULE
Already looking ahead to spring training?
The Mariners released their 2015 Cactus League schedule Monday — a 32-game slate that begins March 4 against complex co-tenant San Diego at a refurbished Peoria Stadium in Peoria, Arizona.
The spring schedule concludes April 4 against Colorado at Salt River Fields in Scottsdale, Arizona. The Mariners open the regular season April 6 against the Los Angeles Angels at Safeco Field.
Tickets to all spring home games go on sale Jan. 10.
Pitchers and catchers report by Feb. 20 to the Mariners’ year-round complete in Peoria and begin workouts the following day. The rest of the squad must report by Feb. 24. The first full-squad workout is Feb. 25.
The Mariners are entering their 39th season overall and their 22nd year at the Peoria Sports Complex. They finished last spring at 18-12-3 before going 87-75 in the regular season.
This year’s spring schedule includes just two split-squad doubleheaders, down from four in 2013.
The Mariners also play only three night games — and all are home games. They played eight night games a year ago, including four away from Peoria.
The Mariners bolstered their organizational depth by claiming minor league journeyman Carlos Rivero on waivers from Boston.
Rivero, 26, is a veteran of nine minor league seasons with four clubs and made his big league debut this season by going 4-for-7 in four games for the Red Sox.
A right-handed hitter, Rivero spent most of the season at Double-A Portland and Triple-A Pawtucket. He batted .264 in 105 games with a .324 on-base percentage and a .379 slugging percentage.
Rivero previously spent time in the Cleveland, Philadelphia and Washington organizations. He played mostly shortstop early in his career but spent this season at third base and left field.
The move leaves five openings on the Mariners’ 40-man roster. Rivero is out of options, which means he can’t be sent to the minors next season without clearing waivers.
Rivero is batting .313 (20-for-64) for the Lara Cardinals in his native Venezuela. He has six homers and 11 RBIs in 17 games.
Baseball’s award season continues Tuesday when Rawlings reveals this year’s Gold Glove recipients for defensive excellence at 4 p.m. Pacific time on ESPN2.
The Mariners have finalists for the AL awards at three positions:
• Kyle Seager at third base with Texas’ Adrian Beltre and Oakland’s Josh Donaldson. Seager has never won the award. Baltimore’s Manny Machado was the 2013 recipient.
• Robinson Cano at second base with Detroit’s Ian Kinsler and Boston’s Dustin Pedroia. Cano won the award in 2010 and 2012 while playing for the New York Yankees. Pedroia was the 2013 recipient.
• Hernandez at pitcher with Toronto’s Mark Buehrle and Houston’s Dallas Keuchel. Hernandez has never won the award. Toronto’s R.A. Dickey was the 2013 recipient.