August 26, 2008 - International League (IL)
The International League today announced its postseason All-Star Team and Award Winners as selected by the circuit¬°¬¶s managers, coaches, media, and club representatives. Pawtucket Red Sox outfielder/first baseman Jeff Bailey has been named the IL¬°¬¶s Most Valuable Player thanks in large part to a .301 average and a career-best 25 home runs. Bailey¬°¬¶s teammate, right-hander Charlie Zink, is the League¬°¬¶s Most Valuable Pitcher. Zink is tied for the IL lead with 14 wins and is 2nd with a 2.92 ERA. The Rookie of the Year is Rochester first baseman/designated hitter Randy Ruiz, who leads the International League with a .320 batting average. Rounding out the list of 2008 Special Award Winners is Manager of the Year Rick Sweet of the Louisville Bats. Sweet¬°¬¶s club boasts the IL¬°¬¶s best record at 85-52, having already clinched the IL West flag.
Most Valuable Player ¬°V Jeff Bailey, Pawtucket
29-year-old Jeff Bailey is the 2008 International League Most Valuable Player. The versatile Bailey has seen time at first base, left field, and right field for the playoff-bound PawSox this season, but his bat has been mostly responsible for his recognition as the League¬°¬¶s top player for 2008. Though currently in Boston for his third stint with the Red Sox this season, Bailey still leads the International League with 88 runs scored and is near the top of the League with a .562 slugging percentage (2nd), a .405 on-base percentage (3rd), and 25 home runs (3rd). He has been at his best in clutch situations, hitting .333 with runners in scoring position and two outs. Bailey has played in nearly 400 games in the International League since 2004, all coming with Pawtucket. He is the first member of the PawSox to win IL MVP honors since Pat Dodson in 1986, and is the 5th Pawtucket player overall to win the honor.
Most Valuable Pitcher ¬°V Charlie Zink, Pawtucket Right-hander Charlie Zink, 29 years old today, is the 2008 International League Most Valuable Pitcher. The knuckleballer is tied for the IL lead with 14 victories and is 2nd in the League with a 2.92 ERA. Zink and Jeff Bailey are the first teammates to win the IL¬°¬¶s Most Valuable Player and Pitcher Awards in the same season since Butch Huskey and Jason Isringhausen of Norfolk in 1995. Zink is the 6th Pawtucket pitcher to win the Award, the last being Bronson Arroyo in 2003. Zink went 9-4 for the 2006 PawSox before spending most of last season with Double-A Portland. Back in Pawtucket this year, Zink has been the anchor of a dominant Red Sox staff that has posted a 3.72 ERA (2nd in the IL). He enjoyed a stretch of two-and-a-half months between losses from May to July, including just his second career complete game shutout (July 3 vs. Syracuse). Zink has been at his best away from McCoy Stadium, posting a 9-0 record with a 2.30 ERA in road games. His first career Major League start came earlier this month against Texas, a no-decision.
Rookie-of-the-Year ¬°V Randy Ruiz, Rochester 30-year-old Randy Ruiz is the 2008 International League Rookie of the Year. Ruiz made his professional debut in 1999, but his first taste of Triple-A Baseball did not come until 2007 with Ottawa (.215, 4 HR, 11 RBI in 22 games). After playing in three different organizations last year alone, Ruiz signed with Minnesota in the offseason and was assigned to Rochester, still considered a Triple-A rookie having played less than 30 games above the Double-A classification. Ruiz currently owns the International League¬°¬¶s best batting average at .320. He is also 2nd in the IL with 33 doubles to go along with his 17 homers and 68 RBI. The Rochester Red Wings have now had 16 players win IL Rookie of the Year honors, more than any other franchise. Ruiz is the first Red Wing to win the Award since Francisco Liriano in 2005.
Manager-of-the-Year ¬°V Rick Sweet, Louisville 55-year-old Rick Sweet is the 2008 International League Manager of the Year. His Louisville Bats clinched the IL West Division Championship last Thursday, the team¬°¬¶s first since 2003. The team¬°¬¶s 85 wins are already the most it has ever achieved in the International League, and its .620 winning percentage stands to be the best for any Louisville club since the 1926 Colonels. Sweet, a former Pacific Coast League Manager of the Year, has piloted the Bats since 2005. This weekend he became the franchise¬°¬¶s all-time winningest manager. Sweet¬°¬¶s club was locked in a tight three-team race for the division title back in late July, but in August the Bats have been nearly flawless, now 20-4 this month. The Bats have lost 16 players to Cincinnati over the course of the season, but Sweet continues to find ways to win. The team¬°¬¶s 85-52 record is the best in Triple-A Baseball. Sweet is the first skipper from Louisville to win the IL Manager of the Year Award.
(Page Two of Three)
In addition to Bailey and Zink, ten other players have been named to the International League Postseason All-Star Team. Pawtucket leads the way with four players, the most on an All-Star Team since Scranton/Wilkes-Barre had five players in 2002. Charlotte and Toledo have two apiece, while four clubs are represented with one player on the team.
¬Ąg 30-year-old first baseman Oscar Salazar had played only 32 games above the Double-A level entering this season, but he has been one of the International League¬°¬¶s top hitters in 2008. Salazar is 3rd in the IL with a .316 average to go along with 13 home runs and 85 RBI (2nd in the League). Norfolk¬°¬¶s cleanup hitter has destroyed left-handed pitching to the tune of a .423 average this season. He has been at his best down the stretch, hitting .366 with 19 RBI already in August. Last year Salazar was the third baseman on the Eastern League Postseason All-Star Team.
¬Ąg For the second time in his career, second baseman Joe Thurston is a postseason IL All-Star (2006 with Scranton/Wilkes-Barre). Thurston leads the League with 155 hits, while his 81 runs (T-3rd) and .314 average (5th) are also amongst the League¬°¬¶s best. Thurston is a rare left-handed hitter who hits better against lefties (.351) than righties (.298). Batting primarily out of the number two position in the order, Thurston has been a big part of Pawtucket¬°¬¶s success this season. He is hitting .400 this year in the 9th inning and .714 in seven extra-inning at-bats.
¬Ąg The 2008 All-Star shortstop is Durham¬°¬¶s Reid Brignac. The Triple-A rookie was recently named by Baseball America as the ¬°¬ßBest Defensive Shortstop¬°¬® in the International League. Brignac was part of Southern League Championship teams with Double-A Montgomery in 2006 and 2007, before making his Triple-A and Major League debuts this season.
¬Ąg Third baseman Mike Hessman earned his way onto the IL All-Star Team for the second consecutive season. On the heels of his recognition as the 2007 IL MVP, Hessman is hitting .265 with 32 home runs and 66 RBI. He leads the circuit with a .594 slugging percentage, and is 2nd in home runs. Hessman also had the honor of suiting up for Team USA in the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing.
¬Ąg Catcher Ryan Hanigan entered the year with 50 games of Triple-A experience with Louisville dating back to 2003. The 28-year-old has had a breakout season, hitting .324 and masterfully handling the Louisville pitching staff as the Bats have surged to the League¬°¬¶s best record. He has been used in five different slots in the Louisville batting order, producing everywhere manager Rick Sweet has used him. Hanigan was promoted to the Reds earlier this month.
¬Ąg 26-year-old outfielder Josh Anderson thrived in his first season in the International League, ranking among the top five in the League with a .315 batting average and 41 stolen bases. Anderson was acquired from Houston in an offseason trade, where he hit .358 in 21 games for the Astros in 2007. This year he has been the table setter for the R-Braves, leading off and pacing the club with 77 runs scored. His 154 hits are 2nd in the IL to Joe Thurston¬°¬¶s 155. Anderson is owner of the International League¬°¬¶s longest hitting streak of 2008, which came to an end last Thursday at 27 games.
¬Ąg In his first full season in the International League, Chris Carter established himself as one of the circuit¬°¬¶s top outfielders. Carter¬°¬¶s 24 home runs are tied for 4th in the League. Serving as cleanup hitter for Pawtucket, Carter leads the club with 78 RBI and is 2nd with 130 hits. The 25-year-old also made his Major League debut this season, going 2-3 in a June game against Tampa Bay.
¬Ąg Toledo closer Blaine Neal has been elected as the relief pitcher on the IL Postseason All-Star Team. Neal has been lights-out for the Mud Hens this season, posting a 1.27 ERA in 36 relief appearances. Like his teammate Mike Hessman, Neal has been away from the Hens since late July with Team USA, but despite the absence his 25 saves are tied for the 2nd-most in the League. Neal now has 111 career saves, including 11 last season with Syracuse.
¬Ąg The designated hitter on the IL All-Star Team is Charlotte¬°¬¶s Brad Eldred, the premier slugger in the International League this season. Eldred missed a full month of the season with a fractured wrist, but he returned in late July and is comfortably leading the League in home runs (35) and RBI (100), a career-high for the 28-year-old. Eldred, who also plays first base, was signed by the White Sox in the offseason as a free agent.
¬Ąg The final All-Star spot goes to Charlotte¬°¬¶s Chris Getz, who has been selected as the International League¬°¬¶s top utility player for 2008. Getz, who turns 25 on Saturday, has split time between second base, shortstop, third base, and the outfield in his first season above the Double-A level. Getz has also done a little bit of everything offensively, hitting .306 (7th in the IL) while posting career-highs in home runs (11) and RBI (51). He has also stolen 11 bases.