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Sunday baseball notes

Taking a look at the races for baseball’s major awards as the regular season winds down

Yankees Aaron Judge has a wide lead in the major league home-run race, and possibly the inside track to win the AL MVP award.Scott Audette/Associated Press

There is enough time between now and Oct. 5, the last day of Major League Baseball’s regular season, that voting for the major awards could be swayed.

Most of the attention will be on the American League Most Valuable Player competition between Aaron Judge and Shohei Ohtani. But the other categories hold some intrigue, too.

A reminder that the awards are based on the regular season only and the votes are due before the start of the postseason. The panel for each award is made up of 30 members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America, two from each city in the respective leagues.

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With that, here’s a look at the races:

AL Most Valuable Player: Judge has carried the Yankees. He went into the weekend with 55 home runs, 19 more than anybody else in the majors. He dominates all the advanced statistics, too. Judge also should get extra credit for performing in the heat of a pennant race.

But are we being too casual in overlooking that Ohtani has again had a remarkable season? His OPS is close to .900, he has 61 extra-base hits, and leads the Angels with 136 innings on the mound. What’s more valuable than doing all that?

Judge is the probable winner, sure. But if the roles were reversed and Ohtani was a two-way star in New York, even for a losing team, I suspect he’d win.

NL Most Valuable Player: Cardinals first baseman Paul Goldschmidt seems to have this locked up. He leads the league in WAR, OPS, and RBIs, and could claim the home run crown.

Goldschmidt finished second twice in MVP balloting earlier in his career. This season should put him over the top.

AL Cy Young: This was a race between Justin Verlander and Shane McClanahan before both landed on the injured list. That could open the door to Dylan Cease, who has allowed two earned runs over his last 23 innings to chop his ERA to 2.06. He has a big lead in WAR, too.

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Verlander’s teammate, Framber Valdez, has worked at least six innings in 24 of his 26 starts and allowed two or fewer earned runs 18 times.

At 39, Verlander is a sentimental favorite. But Cease is positioned to steal the award.

Marlins pitcher Sandy Alcantara looks like the favorite for the NL Cy Young award.John Bazemore/Associated Press

NL Cy Young: This would seem to be in the hands of Miami ace Sandy Alcantara, who is 12-7 with a 2.43 ERA through 28 starts and 196⅔ innings.

At a time when less is asked of starters, Alcantara is a traditional workhorse and that will resonate with voters.

Max Fried, Zac Gallen, Carlos Rodón, and Julio Urías will get support, too.

AL Rookie of the Year: It’s hard to imagine Julio Rodríguez not winning. The dynamic Seattle outfielder has shown power and speed for a team set to end a playoff drought that goes back to 2001.

Orioles catcher Adley Rutschman could prove to be the best player in this class over time. But Rodriguez has played 31 more games.

NL Rookie of the Year: This will go to an Atlanta Brave, most likely righthander Spencer Strider. But a good case can be made for outfielder Michael Harris II.

Strider, 23, is 10-4 with a 2.69 ERA over 29 games. The Braves did a nice job of acclimating him to the majors through the bullpen then making him a starter in late May, early June. He is 9-3, 2.80 since.

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Harris has been a game-changing player on offense with 15 homers and 16 stolen bases. As the Braves look to become the first repeat champions since the 1998-2000 Yankees, incorporating those rookies could be the key.

AL Manager of the Year: This is the award I’m voting on this season and the BBWAA asks us not to reveal our choices ahead of time. Hope the suspense isn’t too much for you.

NL Manager of the Year: Buck Showalter’s presence changed how the Mets went about their business. He turned around an underachieving team.

But 36-year-old rookie manager Oli Marmol of the Cardinals deserves a lot of support.

Managing a team with personalities such as Yadier Molina, Albert Pujols, and Adam Wainwright, Marmol deftly led the Cardinals to a stranglehold on the NL Central after the surprise firing of Mike Shildt.

EXPERT OPINION

Houck should be OK for 2023

Tanner Houck should be ready to go for the start of next season after undergoing back surgery. Carlin Stiehl for The Boston Globe

Tanner Houck went from “he’s ready to throw off the mound” to “he needs season-ending back surgery” in a span of 48 hours.

Ideally, Houck is one of the late-inning relievers next season. But can the Red Sox count on that as they build a roster given the lumbar diskectomy he underwent Tuesday at Massachusetts General Hospital?

Yes, says Dr. Frank P. Cammisa Jr., the chief emeritus of HSS Spine at Hospital for Special Surgery in New York.

“He should have full range of motion and be ready for spring training,” Cammisa told the Globe. “He has a lot of time to heal.”

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Cammisa, a Red Sox fan from Waterbury, Conn., has a long history of treating MLB, NHL, NBA, and NFL athletes.

While acknowledging he doesn’t know the particular details on Houck, Cammisa said a diskectomy is microsurgery to treat a herniated disk. Cartilage pressing on a nerve is shaved.

“It’s unlikely, even for a pitcher, that he’d have a problem once it heals,” Cammisa said.

Houck has a 3.02 ERA in 53 games (20 starts) the last three seasons.

A few other observations on the Red Sox:

▪ It’s incredible that Bobby Dalbec finished last season with 51 extra-base hits, 78 RBIs, and a .792 OPS over 133 games and now doesn’t seem to have a future with the Sox.

Dalbec got off to a slow start this season and never really recovered. Once the Sox started trying other players at first base, it only got worse. Dalbec had been an everyday player going back to high school. Trying to stay in a rhythm playing sporadically was something he had never done.

The best move for both sides might be a trade. Granted, Dalbec is unlikely to bring much in return, but it’s better than non-tendering him. Surely there are teams out there — the Angels, Cubs, Marlins, and Tigers come to mind — that would give Dalbec a chance at first base.

Third base might be where he fits best. His arm plays and Dalbec looked more comfortable on the left side of the infield, even in the game he played shortstop.

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There’s a 30-home run hitter waiting to happen in the right environment.

What's next for Bobby Dalbec?Ron Jenkins/Getty

▪ The Rays announced a crowd of 8,069 for Tuesday night’s game against the Red Sox. Discounting games played under COVID protocols, it was the smallest crowd to see the Sox play since June 8, 1999, in Montreal, when 7,233 turned out at Stade Olympique to see Felipe Alou lead the Expos to a 5-1 victory.

It seems like a safe guess that Jason Varitek was the only person at both games.

▪ Hearing that if the Sox let Xander Bogaerts get to the open market, the Phillies will be eager suitors.

Tim Wakefield made a recent appearance on Sean Casey’s podcast “The Mayor’s Office.”

Wakefield said he was worried he’d be run out of Boston after allowing Aaron Boone’s game-winning homer in Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS.

“To be honest with you, knowing the history of Boston, I thought I was the next Bill Buckner,” Wakefield said. “I mean, I got on the bus [after the game] and talked to my wife and go, ‘This is not good. We need to get out of town. We need to go back to Florida right away.’

“And then they invited me back to the writers’ dinner that winter and I walked out on stage and got a huge standing ovation. Just tons and tons of applause and I knew I had been welcomed back at that point.”

The Sox beat the Yankees in the ALCS the following season. Wakefield said Joe Torre called from the Yankees clubhouse to congratulate him.

“He said, ‘Wake, I just wanted to congratulate you from me, personally, on winning the ALCS here. I’ve watched you for years from across the field. I have so much respect for you. I just want to wish you and Johnny Damon, who I have a lot of respect for, please tell him, I wish you luck in the World Series and just remember to have fun.’

“We became really good friends after that. I have a lot of respect for him,” Wakefield said.

David Ortiz will join the Globe Summit on Friday. The free virtual event includes a number of Boston-area newsmakers. Go to globesummit2022.splashthat.com to register.

ETC.

Dewey remembers meeting the Queen

Queen Elizabeth II, who died Thursday at age 96, once attended an Orioles game at Memorial Stadium in May 1991.Greg Gibson/Associated Press

Dwight Evans remembers the day well. It was May 15, 1991. He was playing for the Orioles, in what proved to be the final season of his career, when Queen Elizabeth II came to a game at Memorial Stadium.

Evans and his teammates lined up in the dugout to greet Her Majesty. But not before being given strict rules.

“There were protocols,” Evans said. “You couldn’t touch her or shake her hand. We just walked by and I said hello. She nodded, a tiny little nod.”

The Queen was accompanied by President George H.W. Bush and Barbara Bush along with Prince Phillip to see the Orioles play the Athletics. Players from both teams met her.

“She was so gracious,” Evans said. “What a life and what an example she was.”

News coverage of the time showed the Queen wearing gloves and smiling as she met the players. She did shake a few hands, including Cal Ripken Jr. and Tony La Russa.

The Queen also met Reggie Jackson, who was an Oakland coach at the time. Wonder if she thought that was amusing given Mr. October’s role as her would-be assassin in the 1988 comedy “The Naked Gun.”

Larry Lucchino, who was president of the Orioles, had an interesting task that day. Joe DiMaggio, who was on the team’s board of directors, asked him to have the Queen sign a ball for him.

The Queen signed the ball, said Charles Steinberg, who also was working for the Orioles at the time.

That ball is surely worth a lot to whoever has it now.

Extra bases

Friday’s decision by MLB’s new Competition Committee to institute a pitch clock, restrictions on shifts, and slightly larger bases in 2023 is welcome. The pitch clock has been widely hailed in the minor leagues for improving the pace of the game and increasing action. In essence, a pitcher will have 15 seconds between pitches with the bases empty and 20 seconds with a runner on. The success of the rule will hinge on umpires being willing to call a ball on pitchers who exceed the clock. Minor league pitchers adjusted quickly and major leaguers should, too. The new shift rule will require two infielders on each side of second base as a pitch is released with all four having both feet on the dirt when the pitcher is on the rubber. It’s tricky, the league telling teams how to play defense. But the game has become a test of which team has the best data analysts, not the best infielders. Is that what we want? Baseball needs a better product and this feels like a step in that direction … Dodgers closer Craig Kimbrel found a unique solution to his struggles: A new walk-in song. Kimbrel is now coming out of the bullpen to the Idina Menzel version of “Let It Go” from the animated movie “Frozen.” It started on Aug. 21 when all the Dodgers changed their songs in honor of Women’s Day at Dodger Stadium. Kimbrel let his wife, Ashley, pick his song. He had a perfect inning that day and has stayed with it since. Since changing his song, Kimbrel has worked 6⅓ scoreless innings without allowing a hit while walking two and striking out six. His ERA has dropped from 4.36 to 3.88. That a tough-guy closer is coming in to a song preteen girls love is amusing. Kimbrel is seventh in career saves with 394, having recently passed Dennis Eckersley … The Yankees placed DJ LeMahieu on the injured list with inflammation in a toe on his right foot. There’s a chance it could be season-ending. “There’s that concern,” manager Aaron Boone said. The Yankees are so beaten up that light-hitting shortstop Isiah Kiner-Falefa batted cleanup Thursday for the first time in his five-year career … Yadier Molina recently passed Carlton Fisk for second-most games started at catcher. Molina went into the weekend with 2,100. Fisk had 2,097. Another Pudge, Ivan Rodriguez, holds the record with 2,346 … Pardon our preoccupation with Pirates shortstop Oneil Cruz. But the 23-year-old accomplished another astounding feat on Tuesday when he hit a 422-foot home run to right field out of PNC Park and into the Allegheny River. He was 3 for 5 in an 8-2 victory against the Mets. The average exit velocity of four balls he put in play was 112.1 miles per hour … Baseball fights often don’t make a lot of sense. The bench-clearing incident between the Blue Jays and Orioles on Tuesday was particularly odd. Bryan Baker pitched one inning for the Blue Jays in 2021 then was claimed off waivers by the Orioles in November. Baker has faced the Jays five times since and taken to staring into their dugout after getting outs. When Baker did it again Tuesday the Jays came out of the dugout. “When you stare at the person it’s kind of disrespectful,” Vladimir Guerrero Jr. said. “I mean, maybe you think you’re a superhero or something? Whatever. But yeah, he does cross the line.” Baker has allowed four earned runs over 6⅔ innings against the Blue Jays … Tigers infielder Kody Clemens, the Rocket’s son, has a 4.50 ERA in six appearances on the mound. He got his first career strikeout on Monday when Shohei Ohtani took a called third strike on a 68-m.p.h. pitch. Clemens saved the ball to be authenticated and Ohtani signed it. He also wrote, “What a nasty pitch!” Clemens’s fastest pitch this season was a 73.4-m.p.h. “fastball.” But while he did not inherit his dad’s arm, Kody does lead the family with three home runs. Roger had 31 hits in his career but never homered … Happy birthday to former Red Sox center fielders Ellis Burks (58) and Jacoby Ellsbury (39). Burks played for the Sox from 1987-92 and again for 11 games in 2004. He had 352 home runs and 181 stolen bases in his career. He’s one of 21 players to reach those levels and 10 are in the Hall of Fame. Ellsbury was an accomplished player in Boston from 2007-13 then dived off a statistical cliff after signing a seven-year, $153 million deal with the Yankees.


Peter Abraham can be reached at peter.abraham@globe.com. Follow him @PeteAbe.