Carpenter, Hill are Comeback winners
Cardinal, Blue Jay both had strong performances after injury
Chris Carpenter, who returned from elbow surgery to help lead the Cardinals' charge to the National League Central title, and Aaron Hill, who put behind a concussion to put up power numbers for the Blue Jays, were selected by their peers for 2009 Players Choice Awards as the top comeback players in their leagues.
The Outstanding Comeback awards were announced on Tuesday in separate segments of ESPN Radio's Mike & Mike in the Morning show that were sponsored by Upper Deck. The Players Choice Awards for the outstanding pitcher in each league will be announced on Wednesday and outstanding players in each league on Thursday.
On Monday, Gordon Beckham, who rushed through the Minor Leagues to take his place in the middle of the White Sox's batting order, and J.A. Happ, who emerged from the bullpen to solidify the Phillies' pennant-winning rotation, were named the outstanding rookies in their leagues.
The Players Choice Awards announcements culminate on Friday with the Marvin Miller Man of the Year, which goes to the player whose on- and off-the-field performance most inspires others to higher levels of achievement, and the overall Player of the Year.
Hill, 27, appeared in just 55 games in 2008 because of a concussion. This season, he returned to hit .286 and established career highs by finishing third in the AL with 36 homers and second in the league with 340 total bases. The former LSU star's 108 RBIs were fifth in the league and the most among Major League second basemen.
The 13th overall pick in the 2003 Draft, Hill also made his first All-Star Game appearance a little more than 13 months after suffering a Grade II concussion in a collision in Oakland with then Blue Jays teammate David Eckstein. He attempted to return from the injury last season, but he went back on the disabled list on Aug. 17 and decided to focus on a healthy return in 2009.
It was the fourth Players Choice Award for Carpenter, a 12-year veteran who has been one of the elite starting pitchers of his generation. The New Hampshire native also won the 2004 NL Comeback Player award after undergoing surgery in Aug. 2002 and missing the entire 2003 season with a torn labrum in his right shoulder. He also won the 2005 and 2006 Players Choice Awards as the NL's outstanding pitcher.
The 6-foot-6 right-hander, however, began to experience right elbow trouble and was shut down after just one start in 2007 to undergo Tommy John surgery. He made four appearances, including three starts, and pitched just 15 1/3 innings when he returned last August.
A torn oblique sidelined Carpenter for more than a month this spring, too, but he returned in May and piled up a season's worth of good performances. He went 17-4 and led the NL with a 2.24 ERA, a .810 winning percentage and a 1.07 WHIP. He also completed three games and allowed a league-low 0.37 home runs per nine innings.
"Coming into the season, nobody knew what to expect -- an unhealthy me, and you didn't know what I was going to be able to do," Carpenter told ESPN Radio's Mike Greenberg and Mile Golic on Tuesday morning. "We had a nice little group of starting guys. Our core guys were still there. ... There were a lot of question marks on what was going to happen when we came into this season. We played our butt off that first half, and we gave our ownership a reason to add guys. We were unable to do what we wanted to do [in the playoffs]."
Each 2009 Players Choice Award winner recommends the charity of his choice to receive a grant from the Major League Baseball Players Trust. Since 1992, the Players Trust has contributed more than $3.5 million to charities around the world in honor of Players Choice Award winners.
As he has with past Players Choice Award grants from the Players Trust, Carpenter intends to make his donation to Kristen's Gift, the Pediatric Oncology Fund for Children's Hospital at Dartmouth (CHaD) in Lebanon, N.H.
The Players Choice Awards are selected by the players themselves in balloting conducted in September under the supervision of the accounting firm KPMG. The 2009 Players Choice Awards are being presented by Upper Deck.
The 2009 Players Choice Awards finalists are [winners in bold]:
Outstanding Rookie: Elvis Andrus (Texas), Gordon Beckham (Chicago White Sox), Jeff Niemann (Tampa Bay)
Comeback Player: Russell Branyan (Seattle), Aaron Hill (Toronto) , Scott Podsednik (Chicago White Sox)
Outstanding Pitcher: Roy Halladay (Toronto), Zack Greinke (Kansas City), C.C. Sabathia (NY Yankees)
Outstanding Player: Derek Jeter (NY Yankees), Joe Mauer (Minnesota), Kendry Morales (LA Angels of Anaheim)
Outstanding Rookie: Chris Coghlan (Florida), Tommy Hanson (Atlanta), J.A. Happ (Philadelphia)
Comeback Player: Aaron Boone (Houston), Chris Carpenter (St. Louis) , Nick Johnson (Florida)
Outstanding Pitcher: Chris Carpenter (St. Louis), Tim Lincecum (San Francisco), Adam Wainwright (St. Louis)
Outstanding Player: Prince Fielder (Milwaukee), Albert Pujols (St. Louis), Hanley Ramirez (Florida)
Marvin Miller Man of the Year: Curtis Granderson (Detroit), Torii Hunter (LA Angeles of Anaheim), Albert Pujols (St. Louis)
Player of Year: Joe Mauer (Minnesota), Albert Pujols (St. Louis), Hanley Ramirez (Florida)
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.