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11/17/08 6:26 PM EST

Pedroia takes aim at first MVP Award

Strong contender for AL honors could be rewarded Tuesday

BOSTON -- In the course of just two seasons, Dustin Pedroia has built himself an impressive portfolio of big hits, dazzling defensive grabs and, yes, awards for his accomplishments.

But on Tuesday at 2 p.m. ET, when the results of the American League Most Valuable Player Award are announced, the second baseman of the Boston Red Sox might get what would qualify as his crowning achievement.

In 2007, Pedroia was named the AL Rookie of the Year just weeks after celebrating a World Series championship. Following an even stronger 2008, Pedroia won the Gold Glove Award and earned a spot on the AL Silver Slugger team.

Now, it's on to the race for MVP, an award no Red Sox player has won since Mo Vaughn in 1995.

Pedroia, 25, is considered a top candidate in what is expected to be a tight race.

Others who are in the running? First baseman Justin Morneau and catcher Joe Mauer, the dynamic duo from the Twins, are contenders. So is Josh Hamilton, the feel-good story of the season and highly productive outfielder for the Rangers. Francisco Rodriguez, the closer who saved a record 62 games this season for the Angels, is another who could do well in the balloting.

And, of course, don't forget about Pedroia's friend and teammate, Red Sox first baseman Kevin Youkilis. The right-handed hitter had breakout numbers (.312 average, 29 homers, 115 RBIs).

For the Red Sox, who lost production in different ways (David Ortiz's seven-week injury, Mike Lowell's multiple injuries, Jason Varitek's decline, the trade of Manny Ramirez), Pedroia and Youkilis were the hard-hitting constants for a team that won 95 games and reached the postseason for the fifth time in six years.

The one thing that will probably help Pedroia most in the MVP race is the way he lit up the leader board.

With 213 hits, Pedroia tied Ichiro Suzuki for the Major League lead. His 54 doubles led the Majors. He led the American League in runs (118) and multihit games (61).

Backed by a .326 average, Pedroia lost the batting title by just four points to Mauer. He finished fourth in total bases and seventh in extra-base hits.

Pedroia isn't much for talking about his candidacy for awards.

"Obviously it was a great season, but personal goals, I'm not big into those," Pedroia said earlier this month. "I'd rather have the feeling after '07 than after '08. The biggest thing for me right now is to focus on 2009 and get my body back together and ready for that long season."

While Pedroia is an elite table-setter, he also demonstrated unexpected thump, belting 17 homers and collecting 82 RBIs. He was a presence on the bases as well, stealing 20 bases.

MLB Awards

In short, there basically wasn't anything Pedroia didn't do for the Red Sox.

"The guy carried this team for, I would say, since Day 1 all the way to the end," Ortiz recently said of Pedroia.

Though attitude can't be quantified, Pedroia established himself as an infectious leader in the clubhouse, mixing in humor and intensity.

"He's the team's leader right now," White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen said of Pedroia in August. "People take him for granted. He's cocky, got toughness and got everything going for him."

By Tuesday afternoon, Pedroia could have even more going for him. All he'll need to do is clear a spot in his trophy case.

Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.