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Feliz wins AL Rookie of the Year Award

Feliz wins AL Rookie of the Year Award

ARLINGTON -- Reliever Neftali Feliz has brought to an end the Rangers' 36-year Rookie of the Year drought.

Feliz, 22, was named as the American League Rookie of the Year on Monday by the Baseball Writers' Association of America, the first Rangers player to win that award since Mike Hargrove in 1974. Feliz beat out Tigers center fielder Austin Jackson, outpacing Jackson 20-8 in first-place votes and 122-98 in points.

"It is incredible," Feliz said. "I have to thank my teammates. It was a great season and we had a great year. I feel honored to receive this recognition and I feel very proud of it."

Giants catcher Buster Posey won the National League award over Braves right fielder Jason Heyward.

Twins third baseman Danny Valencia finished a distant third in the AL voting with 12 points (one second-place vote). Rays starter Wade Davis received 11 third-place votes for 11 points. Tampa Bay catcher John Jaso received the only other second-place vote. No other Major League team has gone this long without having a Rookie of the Year winner.

al rookie of the year voting
How the Baseball Writers' Association of America voted for the American League Jackie Robinson Rookie of the Year Award.
Player 1st 2nd 3rd Pts
Neftali Feliz, TEX 20 7 1 122
Austin Jackson, DET 8 19 1 98
Danny Valencia, MIN 1 9 12
Wade Davis, TB 11 11
John Jaso, TB 1 3
Brennan Boesch, DET 3 3
Brian Matusz, BAL 3 3

"When the season was over and I went to the Dominican Republic, I was just enjoying my family and not thinking about this," Feliz said. "But the last couple of days I started reading the newspapers and saw I was one of the top choices to win the award. It wasn't my decision, but I'm just happy to receive it."

After taking over as the Rangers' closer in mid-April, Feliz saved 40 games, setting a Major League record for most saves by a rookie. He was also 4-3 with a 2.73 ERA while being selected to the AL All-Star team. He did not pitch in the game, but he ended the season pitching for the Rangers in the World Series against the Giants. He recorded a save in the Rangers' only win.

"I'm very happy for him," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "He deserves it. He was a big part of where we got to, all the way to the World Series. He handled himself extremely well. I didn't see another rookie who was more important to his team than he was to ours."

Relying on a fastball that traveled between 95-100 mph, Feliz struck out 71 batters in 69 1/3 innings while allowing 43 hits and 18 walks. He had just three blown saves. Of the 127 Major League pitchers who have saved at least 40 games in a season, Feliz is just one of 23 who had three or fewer blown saves.

He allowed 8.57 baserunners per nine innings, the fourth fewest by an AL reliever. He was fourth with 5.85 hits allowed per nine innings while his 2.34 walks per nine innings was the 12th lowest among 85 AL relievers who faced at least 150 batters. He was ninth with a 3.94-1 strikeouts-to-walks ratio.

"The biggest thing was being so young and going to the World Series," Feliz said. "That was for me the great moment. It was a great season. I have to be thankful to God that so many good things happen. All of that and my daughter was born. My teammates were great and so was the organization. They gave us so much support and believed in us. This is a great organization."

A big factor in Feliz's success this year was continued improvement with his breaking ball and changeup. He has always been a hard thrower but developing his secondary pitches have made him a more complete pitcher.

"During the season I had a lot of help from Frank Francisco and from Mike Maddux, my pitching coach," Feliz said. "As the season went on, I had more confidence in my stuff and that made me better. The biggest thing for me next year is trusting my stuff and trusting myself."

Feliz also finished strong even though he was going through the mental and physical grind of his first full season in the Major Leagues. He credited that to strength and conditioning coach Jose Vazquez.

Feliz had a 1.42 ERA in 31 games after the All-Star break, striking out 29 and walking just five. Though it didn't count toward his award, he pitched in seven games in the postseason and had a 1.23 ERA with one save for the AL champions. In 7 1/3 innings, he allowed one run on three hits and five walks while striking out 11.

"We had a long season, but physically I feel 100 percent," Feliz said. "I could still be going strong if we were still playing."

nl rookie of the year voting
How the Baseball Writers' Association of America voted for the National League Jackie Robinson Rookie of the Year Award.
Player 1st 2nd 3rd Pts
Buster Posey, SF 20 9 2 129
Jason Heyward, ATL 9 20 2 107
Jaime Garcia, STL 1 1 16 24
Gaby Sanchez, FLA 2 1 5 18
Neil Walker, PIT 1 3
Starlin Castro, CHC 3 3
Ike Davis, NYM 2 2
Jose Tabata, PIT 1 1
Jonny Venters, ATL 1 1

He is the second reliever in two years to win the Rookie of the Year Award, following Oakland's Andrew Bailey. Huston Street won the award while with the Athletics in 2005 and Kazuhiro Sasaki won it while with the Mariners in 2000. Sasaki had 37 saves, which was the record for rookies until Feliz surpassed it this season.

There is still a question if Feliz will remain a closer for the Rangers long term. He was a starter for much of his time in the Minor Leagues until being converted to a reliever last year. There has been talk of Feliz going back into the rotation at some point, but right now, the Rangers expect him to be their closer next year.

"I enjoyed my season as the closer," Feliz said. "I really enjoyed the fans when they were standing and cheering when I went into the game. But at the end of the season, you have to start thinking about next year and whatever they ask me to do, I'll be ready to do it."

The Rangers acquired Feliz on July 31, 2007, with shortstop Elvis Andrus, catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia and pitchers Matt Harrison and Beau Jones from the Atlanta Braves for first baseman Mark Teixeira and pitcher Ron Mahay.

Feliz made his Major League debut with the Rangers on Aug. 3, 2009, against Oakland and was 1-0 with a 1.74 ERA in 20 appearances for them while retaining his rookie status for this season.

T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields and follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

{"content":["awards" ] }
{"content":["awards" ] }