Melvin, Johnson picked as managers of the year

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Melvin, Johnson picked as managers of the year

NEW YORK (AP) Young rosters, small budgets, limited expectations.

No matter.

Bob Melvin of the Oakland Athletics and Washington's Davey Johnson won big right away and were chosen as managers of the year Tuesday after guiding their teams to huge turnaround seasons.

Melvin beat out Baltimore's Buck Showalter for the AL honor in a close vote by a Baseball Writers' Association of America panel. In his first full season with Oakland, the rookie-laden A's made a 20-game improvement, finished 94-68 and stunned just about everyone by winning the AL West with baseball's lowest payroll.

Still, the unassuming skipper was surprised to win.

``Absolutely shocked. I mean, Buck had such a great year,'' Melvin said on MLB Network.

Johnson was an easy choice for the NL prize after the Nationals - who had never enjoyed a winning season - posted the best record in the majors and made their first playoff appearance.

Johnson, who turns 70 in January, was honored for the second time. He was tabbed as the AL's top manager in 1997, hours after he resigned from the Orioles in a feud with owner Peter Angelos.

This time, Johnson will get a while to enjoy the accolade.

The Nationals announced this month that he will guide them in 2013, when he will be the oldest manager in the majors. He's set to leave the Washington dugout and become a team consultant in 2014.

``World Series or bust,'' Johnson said on MLB Network. ``It's going to be my last year, anyway.''

Melvin also became a two-time winner, having been chosen in 2007 with Arizona. He and Johnson joined Jim Leyland, Bobby Cox, Tony La Russa and Lou Piniella as the only managers to win the award in both leagues.

La Russa was the only other Oakland manager to earn the honor, in 1988 and 1992.

Melvin received 16 first-place votes. Showalter got the other 12 after leading the wild-card Orioles to their first winning season since 1997, and Chicago White Sox first-year manager Robin Ventura finished third.

With five rookies in their starting rotation, the A's were one of baseball's biggest surprises this year - especially after trades, injuries and the suspension of veteran pitcher Bartolo Colon wreaked havoc with the roster. Oakland never panicked under Melvin's cool demeanor, rallying from 13 games back on June 30 and overtaking Texas in the final week to win the division.

The Athletics went 72-38 after June 1, the best record in the majors. They became the first team in big league history to come back from a deficit of at least five games with fewer than 10 remaining to win a division or pennant. The A's then lost in five games in the first round of the playoffs to AL champion Detroit.

``We just tried to keep it day to day,'' Melvin said. ``It's a credit to the guys each and every day going out there and just worrying about that particular day.''

Johnson received 23 of the 32 first-place votes, while Dusty Baker of NL Central winner Cincinnati got five firsts and came in second. Bruce Bochy of the World Series champion San Francisco Giants got four firsts and was third.

Washington won its second major individual award, both in the past two days. Bryce Harper was voted NL Rookie of the Year on Monday.

Before the season, a confident Johnson declared that if the Nationals didn't win the NL East, he'd probably be fired. Washington went 98-64, taking over the division lead in late May and staying in first place the rest of the way. Boosted by Harper, Cy Young Award candidate Gio Gonzalez and their fresh ``Natitude,'' they brought postseason baseball to Washington for the first time since 1933.

``This award's really nice, but I look at the award as an organizational award,'' Johnson said. ``Young players this year really stepped in when key players got hurt. ... We had a lot of young catchers come up and everybody really produced and it was just a remarkable year. Actually, I didn't think they overachieved, they just played up to their ability.''

The playoffs didn't go quite so well. Minus Stephen Strasburg - team execs decided the ace had pitched enough in his first ``full'' season following elbow surgery - Washington blew a 6-0 lead and lost the deciding Game 5 of the division series to St. Louis. Voting for the BBWAA awards was done before the playoffs.

Johnson oversaw a diverse roster, one made up of young and old, Washington veterans and newcomers. A four-time All-Star, three-time Gold Glove winner, two-time World Series champion and the last big leaguer to get a hit off Sandy Koufax, Johnson spoke with a soft, raspy tone but always held his team's attention.

He would occasionally raise his voice - he liked to holler ``whack-o!'' when the Nationals homered.

``Davey Johnson's legacy was secure well before he became our manager in 2011, but his performance this season has to rate among his best work,'' Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo said. ``He showed this club how to win despite being engaged in a pennant race for the first time. And he accomplished this with so many young players.''

Johnson managed the New York Mets to the 1986 championship and later guided Cincinnati and the Orioles. He returned to managing in 1999 with the Los Angeles Dodgers for two years.

In June 2011, Johnson was working as a senior adviser with the Nationals when Jim Riggleman suddenly resigned midway through the season. Johnson took over and agreed to be part of a search committee to select a manager for 2012, allowing that he could be a candidate for the post, too.

The Nationals finished 80-81, barely missing out on their first winning season, and Johnson was brought back for another try.

``What it really comes down to is, you've got to know the makeup of a guy. Know who he handles and when he's going to have some tough times, tough matchups,'' Johnson said. ``So you go with your gut most of the time. You go with your instincts. You don't even want to ask anybody if you're getting ready to make a change or whatever, because you don't want any ties or anything like that.''

Washington was without major league baseball for more than three decades. The Senators moved to Texas after the 1971 season, then the Montreal Expos moved to D.C. to start in 2005.

Under Johnson, the Nationals put aside their losing past and set up a winning future.

The same is true of the A's.

Fired by the Diamondbacks early in 2009, Melvin was hired as Oakland's interim manager on June 9, 2011. Three months later, he signed a three-year contract that runs through the 2014 season.

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AP Sports Writer Mike Fitzpatrick contributed to this report.

Hunter faces Orioles for first time since July trade

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Hunter faces Orioles for first time since July trade

CLEVELAND—There was a most unusual sight for Orioles fans on Saturday. Tommy Hunter was trotting in to pitch, and he was pitching against the Orioles for the first time since he was traded to the Chicago Cubs last July. 

Hunter, who signed with Cleveland in February, allowed two runs in the seventh inning against his old team. 

“It’s terrible. You want to strike everybody out…I talked to a couple of them after the game. It was like, man just take three groundballs and let me be on my way, so and then hanging a pitch to [Adam Jones], I just started laughing, not really laughing. I was really…upset,” Hunter said. 

“I was like, ‘Man, I should just put this ball on the grass, and he’s going to go swing at it.’ But, of course, Jonesy takes care of hanging breaking balls. It was kind of hard, you just don’t look up, just try and keep your head down and go. It was some pretty good friends, but you never want to give up two runs.”

Hunter is 1-1 with a 3.86 ERA in 10 games with Cleveland. 

After the Orioles traded him to the Cubs, he got to reunite with Jake Arrieta, and seeing a different pitcher than he had before was exciting. 

“Man, watching Jake throw was pretty incredible. One of the best pitching experiences I’ve ever seen. Maybe some other people will argue it was the best in the history of the game. Being able to witness that, and somebody that went through as many hardships and struggles as he did, come out on top and be the guy he is today, what kids are looking up to, it was fun to watch and be there in person and see him blossom like the young little tulip he is,” Hunter said. 

Manager Buck Showalter didn’t have a chance to connect with Hunter this weekend, but he is very fond of him.

“Tommy is easy to like. He plays hard. He pitches hard and he’s a great teammate,” Showalter said. 

“Tommy, you pull for him. It’s easy to pull for him. I wasn’t pulling for him last night, but Chris [Davis] and him are real close, but Chris is trying to get a hit and he trying to get Chris out. You pull for him, but not against you. Tommy is easy to pull for. His teammates pull for him. He’s not just some funny guy.”
 

Orioles scratch McFarland from Norfolk start

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Orioles scratch McFarland from Norfolk start

CLEVELAND—T.J. McFarland was scheduled to start for Norfolk on Sunday against Scranton. However, he was scratched from the start in case he’s needed by the Orioles. 

McFarland injured his left knee last weekend and has been on the minor league disabled list.

Manager Buck Showalter said that McFarland’s knee was fine. Andy Oliver was named to replace McFarland, but the game was postponed. The Orioles did contemplate adding McFarland for Sunday’s game because they had no fresh long reliever since Vance Worley pitched 4 ½ innings on Saturday. 

“Just to be on the safe side. He still could pitch an inning there if he had to. Just want to make sure we’re covered. There was some thought about today, but it didn’t happen,” Showalter said. 
 

Jimenez listed as Thursday starter for now

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Jimenez listed as Thursday starter for now

CLEVELAND—Ubaldo Jimenez is listed as the projected starter for Thursday when the Orioles conclude a four-game series against the Boston Red Sox. 

Jimenez, who didn’t make it through the second inning of Saturday’s game, has allowed 68 hits and walked 30 in 52 1/3 innings. Three of the six runs he allowed on Saturday were unearned, but his ERA is now an unsightly 6.36.

Manager Buck Showalter didn’t provide a loud endorsement of the struggling Jimenez. 

“He’s the projected starter for Thursday. We don’t have an off day. It’s just general practice,” Showalter said. ”I’m the projected manager for today, but who knows if that will happen. Just about everything is projected. What is it? … There’s some expression that we’re all day to day.”

Vance Worley, who threw 4 1/3 innings in relief of Jimenez, could take his place on Thursday. 

NOTES: Hunter Harvey, who is recovering from sports hernia surgery in Sarasota, is throwing from 90 feet. … Yovani Gallardo felt good, a day after his simulated game. After a work day on Monday or Tuesday, he’ll pitch for Frederick on Thursday. … Four weeks after he suffered a fracture in his left foot, J.J. Hardy has been walking without his boot and he’ll have another CT scan, which could take place in Sarasota, where he’s been while the Orioles have been away, or back in Baltimore.