(Sports Network) - They are the ones cashing the biggest paycheck even though
they work every five days, and sometimes less.
The job of a starting pitcher takes time, one heck of a fastball and a few
tricks up the sleeve to cease opposing lineups, which is why the Cy Young
Award is given annually to the best candidate in each circuit.
Below are some hopefuls for the prestigious honor in both leagues:
GIO GONZALEZ - The switch to the National League has paid off for Washington
Nationals left-hander Gio Gonzalez, who spent the first four years of his
career in Oakland facing vaunted AL lineups. With a dazzling mix of pitches,
this 2012 All-Star leads the majors with 19 wins (19-7) and is on pace for a
career high in innings pitched. Gonzalez has won three straight and six of
seven starts, and isn't slated to pitch until Sunday at Atlanta. He has two
complete games this season (1 shutout) and is trying to become the second
lefty to ever win 20 games in Washington (Earl Whitehill won 22 in 1933).
Gonzalez is targeting Ross Grimsley, who has the most wins in a season for the
Expos/Nationals franchise with 20 in 1978.
R.A. DICKEY - R.A. Dickey tapped into the fountain of youth this season as
evidenced by his career high in numbers. The 37-year-old, whose birthday is
coming up on Oct. 29, is 18-5 with an NL-best 2.68 earned run average in 30
games (29 starts) this season and has been one of the few bright spots for the
New York Mets. So far, the right-hander and knuckleball specialist has the
most strikeouts in a game for the Mets with 13, the longest winning streak at
11 games, five complete games (3 shutouts), and a 32 2/3 scoreless innings
streak from May 22-29 -- a franchise record. Dickey could be in for a big
raise during the upcoming offseason and is second in the majors in wins. His
1.04 WHIP is the fourth-best in the major leagues.
JOHNNY CUETO - The Cincinnati Reds were counting on Johnny Cueto to help them
capture an NL Central title this season and so far the plan has worked out.
Cueto pitches in a rotation with other formidable hurlers such as newcomer Mat
Latos, veteran Bronson Arroyo and youngster Mike Leake. Cueto's stunning
success has made manager Dusty Baker's job somewhat easier because now he
knows what to expect from the right-hander every five days. Cueto is enjoying
a career year, going 17-8 with a 2.71 ERA in 29 starts, and will go for an
18th win Saturday at Miami. Cueto is one of six pitchers on the Reds with at
least 100 strikeouts (155) and could be the first Reds pitcher to ever win a
Cy Young since it was first introduced in 1956. However, Cueto was denied his
18th win on Labor Day and tied his shortest outing with four innings pitched.
A.J. BURNETT - Save a ball to the face in bunt drills during Spring Training,
A.J. Burnett has been a new man with the Pittsburgh Pirates. Acquired in a
trade from the New York Yankees, Burnett's career appeared to be taking a
downward spiral until he donned a Pirates jersey and started with a 15-4
record to go along with a decent 3.54 earned run average. He has stumbled a
bit recently, going 0-3 in his last five starts -- all Pittsburgh losses --
and the club needs him to return to form with a postseason berth at stake. The
Pirates haven't reached the playoffs since 1992 and at one point appeared
headed back to the dance, mainly due to the right arm of the often-streaky
Burnett, who last won 15 games in 2008 with the Toronto Blue Jays (18-10).
YOVANI GALLARDO - One can assume the Milwaukee Brewers wouldn't be in the
thick of a wild card race had it not been for Yovani Gallardo. Gallardo
currently leads the surging club in wins (15), earned run average (3.72),
innings pitched (186 1/3), strikeouts (188), and games started (30). The
right-hander also is one of the league leaders in quality starts with 24, and
the Brewers are 20-10 when he takes the mound. Gallardo has held opponents to
a .242 batting average and is 7-0 with a 2.98 ERA in his last nine starts --
all Milwaukee victories. If Gallardo can pitch the Brewers from the dead and
into the postseason, it will only make his chances of earning a Cy Young Award
that much greater. Gallardo won a career high 17 games last year (17-10) and
could eclipse that mark at the end of September. He has won 13 or more games
in four straight years.
CRAIG KIMBREL/AROLDIS CHAPMAN - It's very rare a relief pitcher captures a Cy
Young Award, and Eric Gagne was the last to do it in the National League for
the Dodgers in 2003. Atlanta closer Craig Kimbrel is a strong choice and is
tied with fellow candidate Aroldis Chapman of Cincinnati with 35 saves.
Kimbrel is a hard-throwing right-hander who will be a reliable weapon in the
postseason, and the same goes for Chapman. Both Kimbrel and Chapman can hit
the high 90s with their fastball and instill fear into hitters. Kimbrel, an
All-Star, has recorded strikeouts in 90 of his last 142 outs, and has fanned
at least one batter in 36 of his 37 trips to the mound. Much like his teammate
Cueto, Chapman is one of six Reds to have at least 100Ks this season (119). He
also is an All-Star and is trying to become the first Reds pitcher to lead the
NL in saves since Jeff Shaw had 42 in 1997. Chapman led the majors with 13
saves in July and 11 in August.
HONORABLE MENTION - Lance Lynn, Wade Miley, Stephen Strasburg.
JERED WEAVER - The city of Anaheim held its collective breath when Angels ace
Jered Weaver was sent back home to have his right arm examined. Turns out it
was just a case of biceps tendinitis and the right-hander is already back
earning his gigantic salary. Weaver pitched in a 2-1 loss at Seattle on Sept.
2 and allowed both runs in 5 1/3 innings. He said he felt discomfort in his
arm all the way back to early August in a four-hit shutout at Oakland. The
lanky Weaver returned to the hill Thursday and pitched the Halos to a 6-0 win
over the A's with seven shutout innings and nine strikeouts. He only walked
one batter and his 17 wins on the season is tied with three other pitchers.
Before cooling off the Athletics, Weaver had just one win in his previous five
starts (1-3). He bounced back with his 18th quality start of the season.
Weaver had a run of nine straight wins in as many starts from June 20-Aug. 6
for the Angels, who are 12-3 in his last 18 outings.
DAVID PRICE - Where would the Tampa Bay Rays be without David Price? Price
leads the team in wins (17-5) and earned run average (2.54) and gives the Rays
a solid 1-2 punch with James Shields. Price, though, brings more flair and an
extensive set of pitches to the table, and is expected to take the mound
Friday in an important series opener with the New York Yankees. Price and
Yankees ace CC Sabathia are set to square off for the third time this season.
The major league leader in ERA, Price missed his last start due to a case of
shoulder soreness and leads the AL in both ERA and wins. The last eight
pitchers to lead the Junior Circuit in both categories have won the Cy Young
Award. Price was unbeaten (8-0) from June 19-Aug. 16 this season and is
looking to either match or break his career-high win total of 19 set in 2010.
CHRIS SALE - Perhaps the biggest surprise among the AL Cy Young candidates,
White Sox left-hander Chris Sale has thrust himself into the mix. Sale gets
the call tonight against the Minnesota Twins and is riding an eight-game home
winning streak. He is tied for second in the American League in wins and third
in the league with an opposing .281 OBP. The AL's Pitcher of the Month for
May, Sale made the All-Star team in July. Besides Jake Peavy, Sale is the only
pitcher the White Sox can rely on right now in their quest for an AL Central
title. This is Sale's first season as a starter after coming out of the
bullpen in both 2010 and 2011. It seems Chicago made the right choice to
experiment with Sale in the rotation, and looks to ride the southpaw deep into
the postseason. Jack McDowell was the last White Sox pitcher to win a Cy Young
Award in 1993.
FELIX HERNANDEZ - Winning the Cy Young Award for the second time in three
years will be a long shot for Mariners ace Felix Hernandez. Hernandez was once
a strong contender for the yearly honor, especially when he was 9-0 with a
1.40 earned run average in 14 starts from June 17-Aug. 27. King Felix even
threw a perfect game versus Tampa Bay on Aug. 15, striking out 12 batters, and
later tossed a five-hit shutout at Minnesota on Aug. 27. Since then, though,
Hernandez has lost a season-high three straight starts, allowing at least four
runs in each (16 total). The right-hander has five shutouts on the season --
the most in his career -- and was roughed up for seven runs and 10 hits in
four innings of an 8-3 loss at Toronto on Thursday. In 2010, he captured 21-
of-28 first place votes for the Cy Young and joined Randy Johnson as the only
Mariners to win the award. Hernandez and Justin Verlander are the only
pitchers to record 200-plus innings in each of the last five seasons. He is
one strikeout short of 200Ks for the fourth straight time.
FERNANDO RODNEY - Tampa Bay Rays reliever Fernando Rodney is tied with Jim
Johnson of the Baltimore Orioles for the major league lead in saves with 42.
Rodney has more innings pitched than Johnson -- 66 1/3 to 60 1/3 -- and has
pitched in five more games (67 to 62). Rodney has been practically untouchable
and owns a sparkling 0.68 ERA, while opponents are batting a mere .170 off of
the Dominican right-hander. His 42 saves are the third most in club history
behind Rafael Soriano (45 in 2010) and Roberto Hernandez (43 in 1999). Rodney
is trying to become only the second pitcher in history to have 40 saves and a
sub-1.00 ERA. The only other pitcher to do that was Dennis Eckersley back in
1990, when he had 48 saves and a 0.61 ERA. Eckersley is the last reliever to
win the AL Cy Young in 1992.
HONORABLE MENTION - Max Scherzer, Phil Hughes, Matt Harrison.
The Sports Network