Tigers' Verlander, Marlins' Ramirez are top rookies

NEW YORK -- Right after Hanley Ramirez heard he was the NL
Rookie of the Year, he started getting congratulatory calls from
his Florida Marlins teammates.

That was only fitting, because some of his toughest competition
came from all those other baby-faced players inside his own

Ramirez edged Washington third baseman Ryan Zimmerman in a tight
race for NL honors, and Detroit Tigers pitcher Justin Verlander
took home the AL award when balloting by the Baseball Writers'
Association of America was revealed Monday.

"I'm so happy," Ramirez said. "I want to thank each one of my
teammates, because every day they gave me the energy to play in the
big leagues."

Ramirez beat out Zimmerman by four points -- the closest NL vote
since the current format was adopted 26 years ago. The speedy
shortstop got 14 of 30 first-place votes and finished with 105
points. Zimmerman received 10 first-place votes and totaled 101 points.

Three of the top four NL finishers were Marlins. Second baseman
Dan Uggla came in third, getting six first-place votes, and pitcher
Josh Johnson was fourth, tabbed first on the other two entries.

After Ramirez won, one of the first calls he got was from Uggla,
his double-play partner and good friend.

"Nobody was talking about winning Rookie of the Year in the
clubhouse," Ramirez said. "No egos."

Verlander easily won the AL award after his closest competitors
in a race dominated by pitchers were sidelined late in the season
because of injuries. The hard-throwing right-hander, who helped the
surprising Tigers reach the World Series, was listed first on 26 of
28 ballots for a total of 133 points.

Boston closer Jonathan Papelbon came in second with 63 points,
and Minnesota lefty Francisco Liriano finished third.

"I was pretty excited. I was actually outside washing the car.
I totally forgot that today was the day it was announced,"
Verlander said. "It was pretty fun just to be a part of this
rookie class."

Next up is the NL Cy Young Award, another wide-open race. The
winner will be announced Tuesday.

The 23-year-old Verlander, who went 17-9 with a 3.63 ERA, became
the first starting pitcher to win AL Rookie of the Year since Dave Righetti of the New York Yankees in 1981. The last Tigers player to
receive the honor was second baseman Lou Whitaker in 1978.

"It's a nice tribute to him and his teammates," Detroit
manager Jim Leyland said in a telephone interview from his home in
Pittsburgh. "Usually when you accomplish something like this, it's
a combination of earning it with your play and with teammates
making contributions. Winning usually helps, too."

Ramirez gave the Marlins their second Rookie of the Year in four
years, joining ace pitcher Dontrelle Willis, who played a little
prank on his teammate by calling in unannounced during Ramirez's
conference call with South Florida reporters.

"I just called in to say congrats. I love you. Keep doing your
thing out there," Willis said.

The 22-year-old Ramirez, acquired from Boston last November in a
deal for Josh Beckett and Mike Lowell, batted .292 with 17 homers,
59 RBI, 119 runs and 51 stolen bases. Ramirez also hit 46 doubles
and 11 triples.

Voters select their top three choices and points are tabulated
on a 5-3-1 basis. Before 1980, writers voted for just one rookie.

Zimmerman, who actually appeared on more ballots than Ramirez
(29-27), hit .287 with 20 homers, 110 RBI and 47 doubles. He also
played strong defense at third base.

"To tell you the truth, you can't be disappointed, because you
had a great year," Zimmerman said. "I knew it was going to be a
really close vote, and that made it kind of easier. It was a tough
year to be a rookie, because there were so many good ones."

Previously, the closest NL election was in 1982 when Steve Sax
of the Los Angeles Dodgers edged fellow second baseman Johnny Ray
of Pittsburgh 63-57.

Six Marlins received votes, the most for one team on a rookie
ballot. Pitchers Scott Olsen and Anibal Sanchez were also
mentioned, along with outfielder Josh Willingham.

Liriano and Baltimore outfielder Nick Markakis, who finished
sixth, received the other first-place votes in the AL. Seattle
catcher Kenji Johjima came in fourth, and Los Angeles Angels
pitcher Jered Weaver was fifth.

Previous winners from Detroit were pitcher Mark Fidrych in 1976
and shortstop Harvey Kuenn in 1953.