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Ben Grieve: AL Rookie Of Year

Ben Grieve easily won the AL Rookie of the Year award Tuesday, highlighting a season in which his sweet left-handed swing made an immediate impact.

The 22-year-old right fielder for the Oakland Athletics was the only candidate named on all 28 ballots. He received 23 first-place votes and five seconds to finish with 130 points in balloting by the Baseball Writers' Association of America.

"It means a lot after a long season to get recognition like this," Grieve said. "But at the same time it doesn't change anything. It's just an award. I can't get too much of a big head next year."

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Tampa Bay pitcher Rolando Arrojo earned four first-place votes and 61 points. Chicago shortstop Mike Caruso was third with 34 points, followed by New York's Orlando "El Duque" Hernandez who finished with 25 points and the other first-place vote.

Grieve, whose father Tom played in the major leagues and was the former general manager of the Texas Rangers, led AL rookies with 168 hits, 18 home runs, 94 runs, 41 doubles and 89 RBI. He led the club in on-base percentage, at-bats, hits, doubles, walks and was second in runs. He batted .288 and made only two errors.

Grieve is the fifth A's player to win the award, joining Walt Weiss (1988), Mark McGwire (1987), Jose Canseco (1986) and Harry Byrd (1952).

A September call-up by the A's in 1997, Grieve hit three doubles and drove in five runs in his major league debut against San Francisco. In 24 games that year, he batted .312 with three homers and 24 RBI, making him the early favorite for this year's rookie award.

"Tha gave me extra confidence, knowing I could succeed against big-league level pitching," he said. "I knew I could hit, but that month gave me the confidence this year that I could do it day in and day out."

Voting breakdown
Player Team 1
1. Ben Grieve Oakland 23
2. Rolando Arrojo Tampa Bay 4
3. Mike Caruso Chicago --
4. Orlando Hernandez N.Y. Yankees
5. Magglio Ordonez Chicago --
5. Sidney Ponson Baltimore --
(Voting done on a 5-3-1 basis)

He met those expectations at the start of this season, hitting higher than .300 in each of the first three months and becoming the first Oakland rookie since McGwire to play in the All-Star game. He slumped in the second half, hitting only .258 after the break.

Arrojo and Hernandez, both Cuban defectors, were the top rookie pitchers in the AL. Arrojo, who defected during the 1996 Olympics, went 14-12 with a 3.56 ERA and made the All-Star team. Hernandez, who fled Cuba on a raft last December, went 12-4 with a 3.13 ERA after being called up June 3.

Caruso led AL rookies with a .306 average, but made 35 errors.

Chicago's Kerry Wood, who grew up only a few miles from Grieve in Texas and played against him in high school, won the NL Rookie of the Year award Monday.

The NL Manager of the Year will be announced Wednesday. Chicago's Jim Riggleman, San Diego's Bruce Bochy and Houston's Larry Dierker are the favorites.

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