Willingham wins Silver Slugger Award

MINNEAPOLIS — After a career-year offensively, Twins left fielder Josh Willingham was rewarded with his first-ever Silver Slugger Award on Thursday.

In his first season in Minnesota, Willingham set career highs in homers (35), RBIs (110), runs (85) and OPS (.890). The slugger also set a career high in games played with 145, as he was able to avoid the disabled list.

For his efforts, he joined Angels center fielder Mike Trout and Rangers center fielder Josh Hamilton as the three Silver Slugger Award winners in the outfield.

Other winners in the American League were White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski, Tigers first baseman Prince Fielder, Yankees second baseman Robinson Cano, Tigers third baseman Miguel Cabrera, Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter and Royals designated hitter Billy Butler.

The Silver Slugger, which was first awarded in 1980, is voted on by coaches and managers from both leagues, and voters are prohibited from rewarding players on their own team.

Willingham proved to be one of the better offseason signings before last season, as the 33-year-old had a breakout year with the Twins after signing a three-year deal worth $21 million before the season.

He got out to a hot start, hitting .347 with five homers in April and entered the All-Star break hitting .261 with 19 homers and 60 RBIs in 81 games. He failed to make the All-Star team but stayed consistent in the second half of the year, batting .259 with 16 homers and 50 RBIs in 62 games.

Willingham is Minnesota’s first Silver Slugger Award winner since Mauer took home the award for the fourth time in his career in 2010. Other Twins who have won the award are Kirby Puckett (1986-89, ’92), Paul Molitor (‘96), Chuck Knoblauch (’95, ’97) and Justin Morneau (’06, ’08).

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