TORONTO -- The Blue Jays played a substantial portion of this season without center fielder Vernon Wells. That hasn't stopped him from sitting near or at the top of multiple offensive categories for Toronto.
Despite missing time due to injury, Wells' performance has been strong enough to garner a nod as Toronto's candidate for this season's Hank Aaron Award, putting him alongside a talented pool of hitters from around baseball. It's been a trying season for Wells, who has fought health issues in each of the past two years.
"I've pretty much gone through three Spring Trainings [this year]," said Wells earlier this season. "So it's been a learning experience. But the biggest thing is to try to go up and when you get your pitch, don't miss it. If you can do that, more times than not, you'll be successful."
More often that not, Wells has been and he's being recognized for his effort.
The Aaron Award is presented annually to the best overall offensive performer each league, with each club having a nominee. Fans can vote until Oct. 12 to select the winner in each league. The winners will be announced prior to Game 4 of the World Series on Oct. 26.
Last year's winners were Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez and Brewers first baseman Prince Fielder. Toronto hasn't had a recipient since Carlos Delgado took home the honor in 2000. Originated in 1999 to honor the 25th anniversary of Hank Aaron breaking Babe Ruth's all-time home run record, the Hank Aaron Award was the first major award to be introduced in 30 years.
Wells isn't likely to receive the American League's Aaron Award this season, but the fact that he was nominated is a statement in its own about his showing this year. One season after dealing with a left shoulder issue, Wells has missed 52 games between a pair of injuries: a broken left wrist in May and a strained left hamstring in July.
Between injuries, Wells struggled with his timing, but still managed to hit .296 with five homers and 24 RBIs in 36 games. Overall, the 29-year-old Wells has remained one of the Blue Jays' leaders in average, home runs and RBIs. Through 103 games, Wells led the club with 17 homers and was batting .295 with 69 RBIs.
For most of the year, Wells -- signed to a seven-year, $126 million deal prior to last season -- has served as Toronto's cleanup hitter, posting a .297 average with 16 homers and 64 RBIs out of the No. 4 spot in the order. Wells' performance has the Blue Jays hopeful that the center fielder can have a healthy campaign come 2009.