Dustin Pedroia won his first American League Gold Glove award today in what could also turn out to be an MVP season for the Red Sox second baseman.
The award, announced this afternoon, was the only Gold Glove given to a Red Sox player this season. First baseman Kevin Youkilis took one home last year, but Rays first baseman Carlos Pena took the prize this season.
In a conference call this evening, Pedroia said it's nice to be acknowledged, but it's not individual recognition that motivates him.
"I didn't really set expectations [coming into the season]," Pedroia said. "My first two years in the majors have gone by so fast. I just [try to] put my head down and go out and play. Whether 1 o'clock or 7 o'clock, I just go out and play. I plan on doing that my whole career."
Pedroia plays not only a steady second base, but a sometimes spectacular one. He has shown a knack for making diving stops in the infield, often earning the gratitude of his pitching staff at the same time. He made six errors at second base this season, the same number of miscues he committed during his rookie season of 2007.
Among AL second basemen, Pedroia's chief rival for the award appeared to be Oakland's Mark Ellis, who made just four errors this season. Pedroia finished second to Ellis in Bill James's Fielding Bible awards. He also finished second to Ellis in fielding percentage for AL players with at least 100 games at the position. His .992 was barely eclipsed by Ellis's .993. It stands as the third-best percentage ever by a Red Sox second baseman, behind Mark Loretta (.994 in 2006) and Bobby Doerr (.993 in 1948).
Pedroia said Ellis is one of the second basemen he has studied on video.
"One of my biggest jumps from my rookie year to my second year was studying film and reading where players are going to hit the ball," said Pedroia, who committed just one error over his final 91 games.
Pedroia, 25, is among the frontrunners for the AL Most Valuable Player award after batting .326 with 17 homers and 83 RBIs while also leading the league in hits (213) and runs (118). The AL MVP winner will be announced Nov. 18, a fact Pedroia said he just learned.
"I found out it comes out 18th. I'll be flying . . . my wife made a vacation for us [in Cabo San Lucas], and I'm not really interested in vacations, but I've got to go to make her happy.
"But personal things aren't big in my mind. The biggest thing now is focusing on 2009 and getting ready for that season."
He is the fifth different player in as many seasons to win the Gold Glove award at second base. Detroit's Placido Polanco was honored last year.
Pedroia was one of four first-time winners, joining Pena, Minnesota catcher Joe Mauer, and Texas shortstop Michael Young.
Outfielders Torii Hunter of the Angels and Ichiro Suzuki of the Mariners both were honored for the eighth consecutive year.
Yankees pitcher Mike Mussina won his seventh Gold Glove, while Mariners third baseman Adrian Beltre and Indians outfielder Grady Sizemore were repeat winners from a season ago.
(Chad Finn of the Globe staff contributed to this report.)