NEW YORK -- Carlos Pena grabbed attention for all those balls he hit. Now the Tampa Bay first baseman and his teammates are getting noticed for the ones he caught.
Pena raised the Rays' profile Thursday when he became the first player in franchise history to win the Gold Glove for fielding excellence.
"I think this is the first of many for the Tampa Bay Rays," he said on a conference call.
"I feel like we all won the Gold Glove as a team," he added. "I think we all make each other better."
The Rays reached the playoffs for the first time since starting play in 1998. They went to the World Series, losing in five games to Philadelphia.
Texas shortstop Michael Young became the first infielder to win a Gold Glove from a team with the worst fielding percentage in the majors. Pena, Young, Boston second baseman Dustin Pedroia and Minnesota catcher Joe Mauer were first-time winners.
Pena bounced around the majors for several seasons before joining Tampa Bay in 2007, and quickly got a regular spot by hitting 46 home runs.
Pena starred with the bat this year, too, with 31 homers and 102 RBI despite missing 3½ weeks because of a broken finger. He sparkled with the glove, making only two errors.
|Carlos Pena made just eight errors last season. (AP)|
"You have no idea how excited I was when I received the news," he said. "Go steal a hit, go help your pitcher out. I've always taken so much pride in my defense."
The 30-year-old Pena has shown improvement in the field, cutting down from 13 errors with Detroit in 2003. He made eight last year with the Rays.
Pena said it had been his goal "to actually play like a Gold Glover and eventually get recognized."
"Carlos works very hard on his defense and he has turned himself into a premier defensive player," Rays executive vice president for baseball operations Andrew Friedman said.
Rawlings has presented Gold Gloves since 1957. Managers and coaches pick players in their own leagues near the end of the regular season, and can't vote for someone on their team.
Hunter has not made an error since Aug. 31, 2007. The AL outfield record for Gold Gloves is 10, shared by Ken Griffey Jr. and Al Kaline.
Young led AL shortstops in fielding percentage. This was his fifth season at the spot since switching over from second base.
Mussina won for the first time since 2003. At 39, he was the oldest AL winner this year; pitcher Greg Maddux won an NL Gold Glove this week at 42.
The Gold Gloves often raise the ire of many baseball fans. Critics claim the best fielders are overlooked in favor of more popular players, and further insist that better hitters get a break in the voting.
Hunter and Sizemore earned $100,000 bonuses in their contracts for winning Gold Gloves. Beltre and Suzuki got $50,000 each and Pena, Mauer and Young won $25,000 apiece. Mussina and Pedroia did not have Gold Glove clauses.
The NL Gold Gloves were announced Wednesday. Along with Maddux, winners were catcher Yadier Molina, first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, second baseman Brandon Phillips, shortstop Jimmy Rollins, third baseman David Wright and outfielders Nate McLouth, Carlos Beltran and Shane Victorino.