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AL Gold Gloves show changing of guard

First-timers highlight AL Gold Glove list

When the Red Sox make winning the World Series look easy, that's a sure sign that the landscape of the American League is undergoing a change. On Tuesday, the Junior Circuit's makeover continued with the release of this year's Gold Glove Awards.

The 2007 class of AL Gold Glove recipients includes five first-time winners, who helped form an entirely new infield. A handful of defensive staples took home more accolades, but it was the inaugural additions who stood out among those honored by Rawlings Sporting Goods Company and Major League Baseball.

Detroit catcher Ivan Rodriguez's defensive prowess was rewarded for the 13th time, while Seattle's Ichiro Suzuki and Minnesota's Torii Hunter were each given their seventh straight Gold Gloves for their respective work in center field. Aside from that trio, the six remaining honorees will have some new hardware for their mantles -- one year after the AL's Gold Glove class included seven repeat winners.

The right side of the infield now consists of Boston first baseman Kevin Youkilis and Detroit second baseman Placido Polanco. Youkilis made no errors in 1,080 total chances and recorded 990 putouts for the Red Sox, who committed 81 errors as a team -- the second-fewest in the league.

"It's a tremendous honor," Youkilis said. "I'm just really excited. It's been a great year with winning the World Series. But I'll tell you what, it's an unbelievable feat just to win the Gold Glove. I never really thought I had a chance. I never knew what to expect.

"To not commit an error at first base all year was really an unbelievable feat for myself. I pride myself on playing defense. But I think it's just going out each day, I just try to help out that pitcher and I try to help out those guys across the way throw the ball."

Rodriguez and Polanco give the Tigers two winners for the second straight season. Rodriguez, who won 10 of his 13 Gold Gloves from 1992-2001, allowed just 47 stolen bases this past season and finished with a .993 fielding percentage.

"That's why you work hard in the offseason," Rodriguez said, "to get awards like that, to stay healthy during the season and try to do the things that you need to do. I take a lot of pride in my defense and playing day in and day out. I'm very happy. This is very important for me."

Polanco made no errors in 683 total chances at second base, where he helped turn 101 double plays for Detroit.

"When you don't make an error, of course he's got to win," Rodriguez said about Polanco. "Any ground ball hit to Polanco, I know he's going to make a good play. The year that he had offensively and defensively, it's remarkable. It's not going to be the only one. He's going to have a lot more."

Angels shortstop Orlando Cabrera and Mariners third baseman Adrian Beltre unseated Derek Jeter of the Yankees and Eric Chavez of the A's, respectively, to round out the AL's new quartet of top infielders. Cabrera, who won a National League Gold Glove with the Expos in 2001, led qualified AL shortstops with a .983 fielding percentage with a league-low 11 errors.

"He studies the game, knows the game," Angels first base and infield coach Alfredo Griffin said of Cabrera. "He knows what the pitchers are going to throw, which allows him to position himself and anticipate. Plus, he has great hands. He never bobbles a ball -- unless it's a very bad hop."

2007 Gold Glove winners
 C Ivan Rodriguez, DET
1B Kevin Youkilis, BOS
2B Placido Polanco, DET
3B Adrian Beltre, SEA
SS Orlando Cabrera, LAA
OF Ichiro Suzuki, SEA
OF Torii Hunter, MIN
OF Grady Sizemore, CLE
P Johan Santana, MIN
C Russell Martin, LAD
1B Derrek Lee, CHC
2B Orlando Hudson, ARI
3B David Wright, NYM
SS Jimmy Rollins, PHI
OF Carlos Beltran, NYM
OF Andruw Jones, ATL
OF Jeff Francoeur, ATL
OF Aaron Rowand, PHI
P Greg Maddux, SD

Beltre led all third baseman with 121 putouts, and his 287 assists for the Mariners were the second-highest total at his position in the league. It marked the first time since 2004, when second baseman Bret Boone and Suzuki won Gold Gloves for the Mariners, that Seattle had two award winners. This year's trophy was the first for Suzuki as a center fielder.

"They are well-deserved, both of them," Mariners manager John McLaren said. "I feel especially good for [Beltre]. He has worked hard at it. He finally got his due. It's well overdue.

"I think we've run out of adjectives when you talk about Ichiro."

Suzuki's 424 putouts, one error and .998 fielding percentage were tied for the best marks among AL center fielders. Close behind him was Hunter, who committed just two errors for a .995 fielding percentage. Like Suzuki, Hunter has won the honor every year since 2001, but his Twins teammate, pitcher Johan Santana, was another of this year's first-timers.

Santana's reputation as one of the league top arms is well documented -- not to mention his two AL Cy Young Awards. But this season the talented left-hander made no errors and had 26 assists in 219 innings. In fact, Santana has committed just one error over the past two campaigns, showing that his devastating changeup isn't all that opposing batters need to worry about.

The Tigers and Twins alone made the AL Central the premier defensive district with four Gold Glovers, but the Indians drove that impressive total to five with center fielder Grady Sizemore being honored, too. That's the most Gold Glove winners the Central has had since the AL expanded to three divisions in 1994.

Sizemore, Cleveland's 25-year-old leadoff hitter, made just two errors in center field for the Tribe, who came within one victory of advancing to the World Series. Sizemore finished with a .995 fielding percentage, 399 putouts and his 1,409 2/3 innings were the most logged by any AL center fielder.

The Rawlings Gold Glove Awards were first awarded in 1957 to one player at each position for the entire league. Since '58, the award has been presented annually to nine players for both the American and National Leagues.

A committee selected by the Sporting News voted for the honor from 1957-64, but MLB managers and coaches took over the responsibility in 1965.

Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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{"content":["awards" ] }