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Chacin wins AL Rookie honor

Chacin wins AL Rookie honor

TORONTO -- It's been a month of firsts for Gustavo Chacin.

Toronto's 24-year-old southpaw became the first Blue Jays rookie to record five wins in a month on Sunday. Now, Chacin is the first rookie pitcher to take home a second Rookie of the Month honor since the award's inception in 2001.

"He's had a heck of a year," Toronto manager John Gibbons said on Sunday. "We knew we had something special when we saw him last September and with what he did in the Minor Leagues last year. He keeps getting better and he'll keep getting better."

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Chacin went 5-0 with a 2.97 ERA in July and the Venezuelan leads all rookies in wins (11), ERA (3.28) and innings pitched (129). His ERA ranks fifth and his win total sits tied for sixth in the American League as a whole.

"I was talking to [Toronto general manager J.P. Ricciardi], and I said 'I wish you could come watch him throw a bullpen. You could see how diligent he is with his work, because he's a perfectionist,'" said Toronto pitching coach Brad Arnsberg. "He does everything you'd look for in a Major League pitcher."

The left-hander is currently riding a 14 1/3-inning scoreless streak.

"All my pitches are working good. I'm throwing a lot of strikes and have a good tempo. I feel comfortable," Chacin said on Sunday.

On Sunday, Chacin tied a career high with six strikeouts and he allowed no earned runs in 6 1/3 innings against a strong Texas lineup. One start earlier, he combined with Jays closer Miguel Batista to shut out the Angels.

Angels manager Mike Scioscia was impressed with what he saw.

"That guy pitched a terrific game," Scioscia said on July 26. "Anytime we had a count in our favor or had a chance to do something, he came up with a great pitch. He reminds me a little of a combination of Teddy Higuera and Fernando Valenzuela. There are a lot of intangibles he has on the mound, just from a first glance."

On the top shelf of his locker in the Toronto clubhouse sit his awards for the 2004 Eastern League Pitcher of the Year honor and the Rookie of the Month for April.

Chacin went 4-1 with a 2.48 ERA to win the monthly award in April.

Some of his teammates feel that a Rookie of the Year Award could be next.

"I think so," said Vernon Wells, Toronto's center fielder. "He just has to continue what he's doing -- throw strikes, make guys swing the bat and just go out there and give us quality innings any time he can. And he's been doing that for us."

The rookie's showing in July came at the right time for Toronto. Roy Halladay, the AL's ERA leader, and Ted Lilly were sidelined with injuries this month and Chacin has been one of the main reasons that the Jays haven't collapsed in the process.

"[Chacin] has been great for us, especially with [Halladay] going down," Wells said. "He's pretty much stepped right into that role and been a stopper when he's pitched for us. It's been a good month for him and a good month for the team."

Oakland rookies Dan Johnson (.364, four home runs, 12 RBIs), Nick Swisher (.278, six homers, 21 RBIs) and closer Huston Street (2-0, 1.20 ERA, five saves) all finished behind Chacin for the award.

"He's pitched so [well] for us this year," Gibbons said on July 2. "Before it's all said and done, he's going to be a good one."

Jordan Bastian is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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