David Price of the Tampa Bay Rays and knuckleballer R.A. Dickey of the New York Mets won baseball’s Cy Young awards on Wednesday.
Price barely beat out 2011 winner Justin Verlander for the American League prize in one of the closest votes ever. Dickey was an easy choice for the National League honor in balloting by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America.
Dickey, 38, became the first pitcher who relied predominantly on a knuckleball to win the Cy Young Award, an achievement mentors such as hall of famer Phil Niekro are quite proud of.
Dickey went 20-6 with a 2.73 ERA, leading the league in innings (233⅔), strikeouts (230), complete games (five) and shutouts (three).
Runner-up two years ago in the Cy Young race, Price was the pick this time for the AL’s top pitching prize. He received 14 of 28 first-place votes to edge Verlander, chosen first on 13 ballots.
Other than a 1969 tie between Mike Cuellar and Denny McLain, it was the tightest race in AL history.
Rays closer Fernando Rodney got the other first-place vote and came in fifth.
Price, 27, went 20-5 to tie Jered Weaver for the American League lead in victories and winning percentage. The lefty had the lowest ERA at 2.56 and finished sixth in strikeouts with 205.
Verlander, also the league MVP a year ago, followed that up by going 17-8 with a 2.64 ERA and pitching the Detroit Tigers to the World Series. He led the majors in strikeouts (239), innings (238⅓) and complete games (six).
Price tossed 211 innings in 31 starts, while Verlander made 33. One factor that might have swung some votes, however: Price faced stiffer competition in the AL East than Verlander did in the AL Central.
Weaver came in third with 70 points, but was listed second on two ballots. The right-hander threw a no-hitter and had a 2.81 ERA in his first 20-win season but missed time with injuries and totaled only 188⅔ innings for the Los Angeles Angels.
The top pick in the 2007 amateur draft out of Vanderbilt, Price reached the majors the next year and has made three consecutive All-Star teams.
Verlander was trying to become the first AL pitcher to win back-to-back Cy Youngs since Boston’s Pedro Martinez in 1999 and 2000. San Francisco right-hander Tim Lincecum did it in the National League in 2008-09.
Dickey drew 27 of 32 first-place votes and outdistanced 2011 winner Clayton Kershaw of the Los Angeles Dodgers. Gio Gonzalez of Washington finished third.
Tigers sign Torii Hunter
Free-agent outfielder Torii Hunter agreed to a $26 million, two-year deal with Detroit, giving the Tigers a capable corner outfielder coming off an impressive season.
Hunter, 37, who has a physical scheduled for Friday, hit a career-best .313 last season for the Los Angeles Angels with 16 home runs and 92 RBI.
Hunter won nine consecutive Gold Gloves from 2001-09 before gradually switching from center field to right.
With the exception of Austin Jackson in center field, the Tigers were unimpressive defensively last season.
Hunter is also a .289 career hitter against left-handers. The Tigers hit a pedestrian .253 versus southpaws in 2012.
Detroit is chasing its first World Series title since 1984. The Tigers were swept by San Francisco in this year’s series.
Marlins face backlash
The attendance-challenged Miami Marlins have antagonized fans yet again by deciding a low-budget team is good enough for their new ballpark.
A trade sending three stars to Toronto could save Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria $150 million, which prompted a backlash from South Floridians angered by the team’s latest payroll purge.
“Everybody in the world wants to talk about the Marlins and the fact they’re now a Triple-A team,” said city commissioner Marc Sarnoff, an opponent of the ballpark project. “The Marlins have lost pretty much all credibility with fans.”
Miami traded All-Star shortstop Jose Reyes, left-hander Mark Buehrle and right-hander Josh Johnson as part of the deal.
Loria declined to discuss the trade with reporters in the hotel lobby at the owners meetings in Chicago.
“Not today, boys,” Loria said. “If you haven’t figured it out yet, I’m not going to figure it out for you.”
A’s like Bartolo Colon
Bartolo Colon will be welcomed back to the Oakland Athletics with no hard feelings — at least by newly crowned AL Manager of the Year Bob Melvin.
Melvin said he is happy the right-hander will return to the club next year after his 2012 season ended with a 50-game suspension Aug. 22 for testing positive for testosterone.
Colon received a $3 million, one-year contract Nov. 3. While the new deal includes incentives for starts and innings, he also has potential bonuses for relief appearances — though Melvin said Colon would prepare as a starter and will be “embraced” by the reigning AL West champions.
The former Cy Young winner went 10-9 with a 3.43 ERA in 24 starts for Oakland last season, his 15th in the majors.
Japanese stars interested
Pitcher Kyuji Fujikawa of the Hanshin Tigers was one of four professional baseball players in Japan who became unrestricted free agents in hopes of moving to Major League Baseball.
The other players were Seibu Lions shortstop Hiroyuki Nakajima, Nippon Ham Fighters infielder Kensuke Tanaka and Orix Buffaloes catcher Takeshi Hidaka.
Fujikawa, 32, a right-handed closer, has 220 saves over 12 seasons with the Tigers. He played for two-time champion Japan at the 2006 and 2009 World Baseball Classic and the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
The New York Yankees won negotiating rights for Nakajima after 2011, but failed to reach a deal. Nakajima, a seven-time All-Star, has a .302 batting average with 149 home runs, 664 RBI and 134 stolen bases over 11 seasons.
Tanaka has a .286 average over 13 seasons with the Fighters, while Hidaka hit .236 in 15 seasons with Orix.
Giants sign Affeldt
Left-hander Jeremy Affeldt and the San Francisco Giants completed an $18 million, three-year contract.
Bobby Evans, the team’s vice president of baseball operations, said the deal had been finalized — giving the reliable reliever the kind of job stability he sought once the World Series winners were done with their season.
Affeldt, 33, went 1-2 with a 2.70 ERA in 67 appearances covering 63⅓ innings this season for the Giants.
When the season ended, he said he wanted to stay but needed a multiyear deal to provide his family with stability — he has a wife and three young sons. Affeldt was a key member of the 2010 title team.