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Jays have Silver Sluggers at their core

Jays have Silver Sluggers at core

TORONTO -- Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos believes his club is a handful of pieces away from having a strong young core for the future. The offensive production of Aaron Hill and Adam Lind this past season creates hope that they are players the organization can build around.

On Thursday, both Hill and Lind were honored with Silver Slugger Awards -- handed to the top offensive performer at each position in each league -- for their work with the lumber in 2009. Hill took home the award among American League second basemen and Lind earned the honor as the top designated hitter.

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"It's obviously a nice feeling for me and Adam, especially for Alex to say that you're a part of the core," Hill said. "I love -- and I know Adam feels the same way -- I love what we have and I love Toronto and I love this team. I'm excited about it. Next year, or a couple years down the road, hopefully I'll be here for a while, I would love to be on the team that brings us back to the playoffs and eventually to the World Series."

It marked only the third time in Blue Jays history that two players from Toronto received Silver Sluggers in the same season. Other winners from the AL included Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira, Rays third baseman Evan Longoria, Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter, Twins catcher Joe Mauer and outfielders Torii Hunter of the Angels, Ichiro Suzuki of the Mariners and Jason Bay of the Red Sox.

"It felt pretty cool to finally win something after being up for a couple things," said Lind, who missed out on his first All-Star appearance in fan balloting as part of the Final Vote in July. "It felt great and I'm really excited to get the trophy with everybody's name on it. I'm more excited about their names than my name."

Hill, who was named the AL's Comeback Player of the Year earlier this offseason, fashioned a career season after missing most of 2008 due to a serious concussion. Hill, 26, bounced back in a big way this year, earning a spot on the AL All-Star team and rewriting sections of the Blue Jays' record book.

Over 158 games this season, Hill finished with a .286 average, 36 home runs, 37 doubles and 108 RBIs. He also ended with 195 hits, 103 runs scored and 340 total bases. Among Major League second basemen, Hill ranked first in home runs, RBIs, total bases and at-bats (682).

2009 AL SILVER SLUGGER AWARDS
The Silver Slugger Awards are given to the players deemed to be the best offensive performers at their positions, voted on by Major League managers and coaches.
POS PLAYER HR RBI AVG
1B M. Teixeira, Yankees 39 122 .292
2B Aaron Hill, Blue Jays 36 108 .286
3B Evan Longoria, Rays 33 113 .281
SS Derek Jeter, Yankees 18 66 .334
OF Jason Bay, Red Sox 36 119 .267
OF Torii Hunter, Angels 22 90 .299
OF Ichiro Suzuki, Mariners 11 46 .352
C Joe Mauer, Twins 28 96 .365
DH Adam Lind, Blue Jays 35 114 .305

On June 28 against the Phillies, Hill belted two home runs to give him 19 on the season, establishing a new single-season club record for long balls by a second baseman with three months to play. When it was all said and done, Hill's 36 homers and 108 RBIs set franchise marks for single-season production by a middle infielder.

Hill's home run total -- the third highest for an AL second baseman -- was also the most in one season for a player at his position since Alfonso Soriano clubbed 38 for the Yankees in 2003. The 108 RBIs that Hill collected were the most in one campaign by a second baseman since Bret Boone's 117 with the Mariners in '03 as well.

"Obviously it was a good year -- something to build on," Hill said. "I think it was more special that we had two guys. I think it was pretty neat that Adam got it. Obviously, he was very well deserving, and we're probably going to see that quite a few times from him."

Lind, who served primarily as the designated hitter for the Jays this past season, earned his first Silver Slugger over the likes of Boston's David Ortiz and New York's Hideki Matsui. Lind ended his breakout year batting .305 with a .370 on-base percentage and a .562 slugging percentage, belting 35 homers with 46 doubles, 93 runs scored and 114 RBIs.

Among all hitters in the AL, the 26-year-old Lind finished in the top five in homers, doubles, RBIs, extra-base hits (81) and total bases (330). He became the first left-handed-hitter from the Jays to notch at least 100 RBIs since Carlos Delgado in 2003 and, among a substantial list of feats, set a franchise record with six RBIs on Opening Day in a 12-5 win over the Tigers.

"When I got home, to be able to take a deep breath and realize the numbers that I put up, it felt special to see my name pop up throughout the World Series -- statistics and things like that for league leaders," Lind said.

As a duo, Hill and Lind became only the second Blue Jays teammates in team history to finish with at least 35 homers, 35 doubles and 100 RBIs in the same season. The 222 combined RBIs for the pair were the most in a season by a Toronto duo since 2003. It was a powerful combination that the Jays hope Hill and Lind can create for years to come.

"I think it's great for the Toronto Blue Jays," Hill said. "I think it says that we've got guys that can do the job. It wasn't just Adam and I. There are a lot of guys that are capable of doing it on our team. Hopefully we see that, because we believe in what we have and I think each year you just have to keep going and do the best with what you've got."

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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