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: DH Victor Martinez and outfielder J.D. Martinez.
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“The game is hard enough when you’re healthy,” said Young, who missed most of 2013 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 (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 on 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.
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.
No Mariners player has won a Gold Glove since outfielders Franklin Gutierrez and Ichiro Suzuki in 2010.