Johan Santana has received much of his recognition in baseball for sheer pitching dominance on the mound, but this year, his defense is drawing some attention. Santana has captured his first Rawlings Gold Glove, with the AL winners being announced Tuesday.
The two-time American League Cy Young Award winner has posted a 70-32 record over the last four years, with no fewer than 235 strikeouts in any of those seasons, with this past campaign marking the only time his ERA surpassed 3.00 during this particular stretch. But Santana takes just as much pride in retiring opposing hitters with his glove as he does with his almost unhittable changeup.
Santana often could be found engaging in pregame drills with fellow Minnesota pitcher Carlos Silva, honing his defensive skills. That extra work appears to have paid off.
Torii Hunter earned his seventh straight outfield Gold Glove, as Minnesota joined Detroit and Seattle with multiple winners.
Jim Kaat stands as the last Minnesota pitcher to win a Gold Glove, with one of the most recognized hurlers for his defense winning in 1973, when he split time with the White Sox and Twins. Kaat won 11 straight Gold Gloves prior to 1973 as part of the Twins' staff.
This honor for Santana also marks the first time a pitcher other than Mike Mussina (six Gold Gloves) or Kenny Rogers (four Gold Gloves) has been given the award since Mark Langston in 1995. Santana finished with a perfect 1.000 fielding percentage in 2007, marking the first career year in which the southpaw has gone errorless.
While winning a Gold Glove figures to be old but expected news for Hunter at this point, this specific award holds a little extra meaning for the affable center fielder. Hunter's seventh Gold Glove gives him one more than the late Kirby Puckett, the Twins' Hall of Famer, who also was one of Hunter's personal heroes.
Hunter committed two errors last season, finishing with a .995 fielding percentage. He also continued his amazing ability to take away home runs or extra-base hits through his acrobatics and fence-scaling antics while patrolling the outfield at the Metrodome.
Both Hunter and Ichiro Suzuki have received such an honor in every season since 2001. Cleveland's Grady Sizemore filled out the outfield winners for 2007, ending a stretch of three straight years with Hunter, Ichiro and Toronto's Vernon Wells as the Gold Glovers.
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.