Changes benefited baseball's top rookies

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NEW YORK --- Chris Coghlan and Andrew Bailey both agreed to change, then quickly got their chance in the majors. Now each has a rookie reward that will last forever.

Coghlan, the pesky Marlins leadoff hitter, won the National League Rookie of the Year award in a close vote Monday, and Bailey took the AL honor after an outstanding season as Oakland's closer.

"I couldn't have written it better," Coghlan said during a conference call.

A second baseman in the minors, Coghlan made a hasty shift to left field in May and found a home atop Florida's lineup. Bailey also switched successfully, going from struggling Double-A starter to All-Star reliever in a year.

"I think the move to the bullpen allowed me to get back mentally to who I was," said Bailey, who believes that was when he began challenging hitters again. "Just took the opportunity and ran with it."

Coghlan edged Philadelphia pitcher J.A. Happ, receiving 17 first-place votes and 105 points in balloting by the Baseball Writers' Association of America. Happ, the only player picked on all 32 ballots, garnered 10 first-place votes and 94 points. Atlanta pitcher Tommy Hanson finished third in a competitive field with two first-place votes and 37 points.

Bailey, who had 26 saves and a 1.84 ERA this season, was selected first on 13 of 28 ballots and finished with 88 points. Texas shortstop Elvis Andrus was the runner-up with 65 points, one more than Detroit pitcher Rick Porcello.

Bailey, a surprise All-Star in July, was driving when he got word that he won.

"At first I thought it was a prank call. Which one of my friends is playing a prank on me?" he said. "I didn't want to take my eyes off the road."

Once he realized the news was true, Bailey passed it along to his family.

"My mom was crying and my dad was stoked," he said.

Coghlan dug himself out of an early slump and had a superb second half. He batted .321 with nine homers and 31 doubles in 128 games, scoring 84 runs and driving in 47.

Called up from the minors in May, the 24-year-old Coghlan topped NL rookies in batting average, runs, hits (162), total bases (232) and on-base percentage (.390).

Though he was left off seven ballots, he became the third Florida player to win the award, joining former Augusta Green-Jacket Hanley Ramirez (2006) and Dontrelle Willis (2003).

"At the end of the year, I knew that I put myself in a good position to win," Coghlan said.

With two-time All-Star Dan Uggla playing second base in Florida, Coghlan's path to the majors was impeded. He was at Triple-A New Orleans this year when the Marlins told him they wanted to try him in the outfield.

Coghlan played one minor league game in left -- without getting a fly ball -- then was brought up to the majors. He finished the season with five errors.

"It wasn't the easiest transition," Coghlan said. "I just tried to work as hard as I could to get as comfortable as I could in the outfield."

Bailey went 6-3 and had 24 more saves than any other AL rookie. The 25-year-old right-hander also led the league's rookies in ERA.

He is the eighth A's player to win the award, tying the New York Yankees for most in the AL.

Bailey was scuffling as a starter in Double-A last year when the A's moved him to the bullpen. It turned out to be a terrific decision.

In his first big league camp, Bailey made the Oakland roster and soon got an opportunity to close partly because of injuries. He took full advantage of it, earning a trip to the All-Star game as the team's lone representative.

"I had never been a reliever in my life, so the opportunity to just go in for an inning and let loose was something I had never experienced before," Bailey said. "It's been a learning experience, this whole year."


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