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Twins' manager Ron Gardenhire, left, is thrown out by home plate umpire Todd Tichenor after protesting the ejection of Twins' catcher Mike Redmond in the seventh inning in a game against the Red Sox May 28, 2009 in Minneapolis. (Associated Press)

Gardenhire wins AL Manager of Year award

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Gardenhire wins AL Manager of Year award
Willmar Minnesota 2208 Trott Ave. SW / P.O. Box 839 56201

By Ben Walker, AP Baseball Writer

NEW YORK -- Ron Gardenhire became a first-time Manager of the Year Wednesday after so many near misses.

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Gardenhire was the clear choice in the American League, earning the honor after five times as the runner-up. He led Minnesota to its sixth AL Central title in nine seasons.

"Congrats to the best manager in bestball!" Twins center fielder Denard Span tweeted. "Way overdue!" Span tweeted an apology moments later for misspelling baseball.

Said Gardenhire: "It's pretty neat to have your name mentioned up there."

Gardenhire drew 16 first-place votes and 108 points, and was the only AL manager listed on all 28 ballots.

Ron Washington, who started the year with a cocaine admission and ended it with Texas' first trip to the World Series, was next in the AL with 10 first-place votes and 81 points. Tampa Bay's Joe Maddon and Toronto's retiring Cito Gaston drew the other first-place votes.

"It's pretty cool," Gardenhire said on a conference call from Florida.

Gardenhire became the first manager in baseball history to win six division titles in his first nine seasons. Despite another loss to the Yankees in the first round of the playoffs, there are many in the Minnesota organization who feel that he had his best year as a manager.

"A lot of good things came out this season," he said.

Always focusing on fundamentals, he won his 800th career game in September and another division title despite playing the entire year without closer Joe Nathan and most of it minus former MVP Justin Morneau. Gardenhire shuffled his lineups and batting order constantly.

Minnesota finished 94-68 in its first season at Target Field. The Twins were swept by New York in the opening round, the fourth time in eight seasons they've been eliminated by the Yankees.

"It's getting old, getting knocked out," Gardenhire said. "Not finishing second" in the voting, "that's good. Now if we go whack the Yankees in the playoffs next year, we'll get that done."

Gardenhire joined Tom Kelly as the only managers in Twins history to win the award. Gardenhire finished second the last two years, along with 2006, '04 and '03.

AP Sports Writer Jon Krawczynski in Minneapolis contributed to this report.

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