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Head of the class

Hinske, Jennings capture Rookie of the Year honors

Posted: Monday November 04, 2002 2:05 PM
Updated: Monday November 04, 2002 7:58 PM
   Third Baseman Eric Hinske #11 of the Toronto Blue Jays Eric Hinske lead all AL rookies with 24 homers this season. Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

NEW YORK (AP) -- Eric Hinske and Jason Jennings were worried about jobs, not prizes. Now they have both.

Hinske was voted AL Rookie of the Year on Monday and Jennings was voted the NL honor as the Baseball Writers' Association of America began announcing its awards for the 2002 season.

"I just wanted to be staying in the big leagues the whole year," Hinske said. "The success I had was pretty surprising for me."

Hinske, acquired by Toronto from Oakland last December in the deal that sent closer Billy Koch to the Athletics, won the Blue Jays' third-base job in spring training and hit .279 with 24 homers and 84 RBIs. He got 19 of 28 first-place votes and nine seconds to finish with 122 points.

Baltimore right-hander Rodrigo Lopez, who went 15-9 with a 3.57 ERA, was second with nine firsts, 17 seconds and one third for 97 points. Orioles reliever Jorge Julio was third with 14 points after going 5-6 with a 1.99 ERA and 25 saves.

Hinske, 25, became Toronto's first player to win the award outright. Alfredo Griffin tied Minnesota's John Castino in the 1979 rookie voting.

AL Rookie of the Year balloting
Player, Team
1st place
Eric Hinske, TOR 19 122
Rodrigo Lopez, BAL 9 97
Jorge Julio, BAL 0 14
Bobby Kielty, MIN 0 5
Complete balloting | Previous winners
NL Rookie of the Year balloting
Player, Team
1st place
Jason Jennings, COL 27 150
Brad Wilkerson, MON 2 57
Austin Kearns, CIN 2 40
Kazuhisa Ishii, LA 1 16
Complete balloting | Previous winners

J.P. Ricciardi made the trade after leaving the A's, where he was director of player personnel, to become GM of the Blue Jays.

"I was stuck behind a pretty good player in Eric Chavez in Oakland," Hinske said. "J.P. Ricciardi, 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."

Jennings, 24, went 16-8 with a 4.52 ERA and became the first Colorado player to win the award -- Todd Helton finished second to Kerry Wood four years ago. Jennings got 27 of 32 first-place votes.

"The first months or even two months of the season, I wasn't even sure I'd be there the whole year. I had all my options left," Jennings said.

Montreal outfielder Brad Wilkerson, who batted .266 with 20 homers and 59 RBIs, was second with two firsts and 57 points. Cincinnati outfielder Austin Kearns also got two firsts and had 40 points after hitting .315 with 13 homers and 56 RBIs.

Los Angeles left-hander Kazuhisa Ishii got the other first-place vote and had 14 points. He went 14-10 with a 4.27 ERA in his first season since leaving the Japanese leagues.

Hinske, a member of the major league all-star team that will tour Japan this month, had the most homers by an AL rookie since Boston's Nomar Garciaparra hit 30 in 1997. Hinske's first career hit and RBIs came on a two-run single off Red Sox star Pedro Martinez on Opening Day.

After making 16 errors during the first half of the season, Hinske had just four in the second half.

His hometown of Menasha, Wis., has taken notice of his success, similar to the recognition given Jarrod Washburn in Danbury, Wis.

"Not too many Wisconsin guys come to the big leagues," Hinske said "I know back home in Menasha, the whole city is going crazy. I know it was kind of a circus there when I came home after the season."

Jennings, who won the Golden Spikes Award as the top college player three years ago at Baylor, went from Class AA in 2001 to the Rockies in the final weeks of that season.

He began 2002 as Colorado's fifth starter but was more consistent than more heralded pitchers on the staff, including Mike Hampton and Denny Neagle. Despite a 5.65 ERA in 17 starts at hitter-friendly Coors Field, he went 9-4 there.

"Everybody knows it's an offensive park," Jennings said. "I just kind of expect the worst and hope for the best. If you give up five runs and win 7-5, you have to be as happy as you'd be with a two-hit shutout somewhere else. You can't worry about your ERA, your stats, your hits or anything like that because it's going to be high," he said.

Hinske gets a $50,000 bonus for winning the award. His salary last season was $200,000, the major league minimum. Jennings, who made $206,000, did not have a bonus clause.

As they searched back for highlights of the rookies seasons, both mentioned big games against the Red Sox.

On June 11, Jennings pitched seven scoreless innings as the Rockies won 2-1 at Fenway Park, a feat he ranked up with pitching against Atlanta's Greg Maddux. On July 14, Hinske hit a tying homer in the seventh off Tim Wakefield and a winning shot in the ninth off Ugueth Urbina at SkyDome.

"It was pretty cool, pretty overwhelming," Hinske said. "It was probably my favorite moment of the year."

Related information
AL ROY: Balloting | Previous winners
NL ROY: Balloting | Previous winners
Sports Illustrated's postseason awards
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