New faces join Ichiro as Aaron nominees
First-year Mariners Branyan, Gutierrez accompany catalyst
SEATTLE -- The Mariners have had the biggest turnaround in the Major Leagues this season, spurred by one familiar offensive weapon and two newcomers.Right fielder Ichiro Suzuki, center fielder Franklin Gutierrez and first baseman Russell Branyan have been so instrumental in the team's resurgence on the field that they have been selected by the Mariners organization as its nominees for the MLB Hank Aaron Award. The Hank Aaron Award, presented by Sharp, is awarded annually to the best overall offensive performer in each league, with each club having three nominees. This is the seventh consecutive year that fans have had a voice in selecting the award winners. Fans can vote through Sept. 15 to determine the club nominee, and then voting will be held Sept. 16-30 to select the winner in each league. The winners will be announced during the World Series. Last year's winners were Red Sox first baseman Kevin Youkilis and Cubs third baseman Aramis Ramirez. Originally introduced in 1999 to honor the 25th anniversary of Hank Aaron breaking Babe Ruth's all-time home run record, the Hank Aaron Award was the first major award to be introduced in 30 years. Ichiro, who began the regular season on the disabled list for the first time in his Major League career and ended up missing the first eight games, hasn't missed a beat since his return and is knocking on the door to another historical achievement. The nine-time All-Star should, in the next few weeks, reach the 200-hits mark for the ninth consecutive year -- something that never has been done in MLB's 133-year history. Going into Tuesday night's game against the Tigers in Detroit, Ichiro had a Major League-leading 175 hits, putting him on the doorstep of replacing Hall of Famer Willie Keeler at the top of the list for the most consecutive 200-hit seasons. Gutierrez, acquired from the Indians in a three-team, 12-player trade during the Winter Meetings this past offseason, has paid off big time for Seattle. He has been a consistent contributor on offense, setting career highs in home runs (14) and RBIs (51). Branyan also is having a career year -- at age 33. An under-the-radar free-agent signing in November, the powerful left-handed hitter has established career highs in home runs (27) and RBIs (69) and figures to get plenty of votes for American League Comeback Player of the Year.
Jim Street is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.