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Hinske, Jennings Win Rookie of Year Awards

November 05, 2002|Mike DiGiovanna | Times Staff Writer

A winter trade from Oakland to Toronto opened the door for Eric Hinske, and the Blue Jay third baseman bulled his way through with a .279 average, 24 home runs and 84 runs batted in, a distinguished debut season that earned American League rookie of the year honors Monday for the 25-year-old.

Colorado pitcher Jason Jennings, the 24-year-old right-hander who went 16-8 with a 4.52 earned-run average, was named National League rookie of the year, becoming the first Colorado player to win the honor.

Hinske received 19 of 28 first-place votes and nine second-place votes to finish with 122 points in voting by a panel of the Baseball Writers Assn. of America. Baltimore right-hander Rodrigo Lopez (15-9, 3.57 ERA) was second with 97 points, getting nine first-place votes, and Oriole reliever Jorge Julio (5-6, 1.99 ERA, 25 saves) was third with 14 points.

Jennings received 27 first-place votes and five second-place votes for 150 points. Montreal outfielder Brad Wilkerson (.266, 20 homers, 59 RBIs) was second with 57 points, including two first-place votes, and Cincinnati outfielder Austin Kearns (.315, 13 homers, 56 RBIs) was third with 40 points, also getting two first-place votes.

Dodger left-hander Kazuhisa Ishii, who went 14-10 with a 4.27 ERA before his season was cut short by a fractured skull Sept. 8, received the other first-place vote and finished fourth with 14 points.

Hinske, a 17th-round pick of the Chicago Cubs in 1998, spent 2001 in Sacramento, the A's triple-A affiliate. But in one of his first moves as Toronto's new general manager last December, J.P. Ricciardi, formerly the A's director of player personnel, acquired Hinske and pitcher Justin Miller for closer Billy Koch.

"I was stuck behind a pretty good player in Eric Chavez in Oakland," Hinske said Monday. "J.P., in bringing me over, said, 'It's your job to lose.' I can't thank him enough for giving me a chance to play every day. Oakland got a great closer in Koch. Both teams made out in the end."

Hinske, a member of the major league all-star team that will tour Japan this month, hit .293 with 14 homers and 44 RBIs in the first three months, establishing himself as the favorite for the award. He hit .308 with runners in scoring position.

The Menasha, Wis., native had the most homers by an AL rookie since Boston's Nomar Garciaparra hit 30 in 1997. After making 16 errors during the first half of the season, Hinske had only four errors in the second half.

"My goal was to just stay in the big leagues all year," said Hinske, who will get a $50,000 bonus for winning the award. "After the first month or two, I started getting confident in my ability to play at the big-league level. Then you get kind of greedy. You want to do better and better on a daily basis.... Hopefully I can take that into next year. And hopefully I'll avoid the sophomore jinx."

Jennings, who did not have a rookie-of-the-year bonus in his contract, jumped from double-A to the big leagues in 2001 and had a memorable major league debut, throwing a five-hit shutout with eight strikeouts in a win over the New York Mets in Shea Stadium on Aug. 23.

He opened 2002 as Colorado's fifth starter but was far more effective and consistent than highly paid teammates Mike Hampton and Denny Neagle. Though he had a 5.65 ERA and gave up 18 home runs in hitter-friendly Coors field, Jennings still went 9-4 at home. He went 7-4 with a 3.35 ERA on the road, giving up eight homers.

"You have to keep it simple in Coors Field, limit your walks and have an open mind," Jennings said. "Everyone knows it's an offensive park. I would expect the worst and hope for the best. If you give up five runs and you win, you have to be as happy with that as a shutout. You can't worry about your ERA, your opposing batting average. The name of the game is winning, keeping your team in the game."

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(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)

Rookie of the Year

AMERICAN LEAGUE

With first-, second- and third-place votes and total points on a 5-3-1 basis:

*--* Player 1st 2nd 3rd Tot Eric Hinske, Tor 19 9 - 122 Rodrigo Lopez, Bal 9 17 1 97 Jorge Julio, Bal - 1 11 14 Bobby Kielty, Min - 1 2 5 John Lackey, ANGELS - - 5 5 Josh Phelps, Tor - - 3 3 Kevin Mench, Tex - - 2 2 Mark Ellis, Oak - - 1 1 Tony Fiore, Min - - 1 1 Dustan Mohr, Min - - 1 1 Carlos Pena, Det - - 1 1

*--*

NATIONAL LEAGUE

With first-, second- and third-place votes and total points on a 5-3-1 basis:

*--* Player 1st 2nd 3rd Tot Jason Jennings, Col 27 5 - 150 Brad Wilkerson, Mon 2 14 5 57 Austin Kearns, Cin 2 8 6 40 Kazuhisa Ishii, DODGERS 1 2 5 16 Damian Moss, Atl - 2 6 2 Ryan Jensen, SF - - 4 4 Mark Prior, Chi - 1 - 3 Josh Fogg, Pit - - 3 3 Alex Sanchez, Mil - - 1 1 Jason Simontacchi, StL - - 1 1 Dennis Stark, Col - - 1 1

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