The Mariners’ Nelson Cruz drops his bat as he begins a run around the bases on his home run against the Rangers in a game Sept. 21, 2017, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

The Mariners’ Nelson Cruz drops his bat as he begins a run around the bases on his home run against the Rangers in a game Sept. 21, 2017, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

Designated hitter Cruz named Mariners’ player of the year

James Paxton is named Seattle’s pitcher of the year in a pre-game ceremony Friday.

SEATTLE — Nelson Cruz is already reaping rewards for a record-breaking season that has him poised to lead the American League in RBI for the first time in his 13-year career.

Cruz, 37, was honored Friday in a pre-game ceremony as the Seattle Mariners’ player of the year as selected by the Seattle Chapter of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America.

“To do what he’s doing is defying the odds,” manager Scott Servais said. “All the studies that say you decline at a certain age, there are outliers, and he’s one of the outliers.”

The Seattle Chapter also chose James Paxton as the Mariners’ pitcher of the year and recognized reliever Nick Vincent as the club’s unsung hero.

Cruz previously won the player-of-the-year award in 2015, which marked his first season with the Mariners. He entered Friday’s game against Cleveland with a club-leading 35 homers and an American League-leading 112 RBI.

“Scoring runs and driving in runs is what gets you wins,” he said. “And that’s my job. I’m supposed to drive in runs. That’s what I’m here for. That’s definitely something that I’m proud of.”

Cruz’s 112 RBIs are a career high. Entering Friday’s games, Baltimore second baseman Jonathan Scoop ranked second among AL players with 105.

Paxton, 28, was picked as the club’s top pitcher even through he missed 55 games — roughly 11 starting opportunities — because of a strained forearm muscle in May and a strained pectoral muscle in August.

Even so, Paxton has already set a career high with 22 starts and is line to make two more. He is 12-5 with a 3.03 ERA after losing his two starts since returning earlier this month from the strained pec.

“When I’ve been out there,” he said, “it’s been pretty good for the most part. Coming back from injury, I’ve had a couple of blips there, but once I’m at full strength, it’s been good.

“Obviously the big goal for me is to stay healthy and get those 33 or 34 starts in a season. That’s what I’m going to focusing on this offseason, finding way to stay healthy for the entire season.”

Paxton is a first-time recipient. Felix Hernandez won the award in seven of the previous nine years, while Hisashi Iwakuma won last season and in 2013.

Vincent, 31, is an apt choice as the unsung hero since the award typically goes to a player whose accomplishments garner little attention — which pretty much defines the life of a setup reliever.

“That’s what I’ve done the whole way through from Long Beach (State) to now,” he said. “I’m a setup guy. That’s been my thing. Go out there and get outs.”

Vincent is 3-3 with a 2.87 ERA in a club-leading 66 games despite some recent struggles. He also has 27 “holds” in 29 opportunities and possessed a 1.87 ERA as recently as Sept. 3.

“For a long time,” Servais said, “he was probably the MVP of our team with where our starting pitching was. When we got in close games, and had a chance to win them, we were winning them. And a lot of that had to do with Nick Vincent.”

Vincent will remain busy in the offseason. He and his wife, Jackie, are expecting their first child in late October.

“I don’t know what I’m in for,” he said. “I’m sure it’s going to be tiring, but it’s exciting.”

More awards

The Mariners also recognized their minor-league award winners prior to the game, including Triple-A Tacoma outfielder Ian Miller as recipient of the Ken Griffey Jr. Minor League Hitter of the Year award.

Double-A Arkansas Nick Neidert is the Jamie Moyer Minor League Pitcher of the Year award recipient.

Miller, 25, batted a combined .307 with a .355 on-base percentage in 124 games at Arkansas (83) and Tacoma (41). He also stole 43 bases in 48 attempts. Neidert, 20, was a combined 11-6 with a 3.45 ERA at Hi-A Modesto and Arkansas.

The awards, selected by club officials, were announced Sept. 11.

Other award winners:

— Infielder Chris Mariscal (Modesto/Arkansas) received the Alvin Davis “Mr. Mariner” award.

— Infielder Jordan Cowan (Modesto) received the Edgar Martinez PTPA (productive team plate appearance) award.

— Right-handed pitcher Ljay Newsome (Lo-A Clinton) received the “60 feet, 6 inch Club” award in recognition for ability to execute the organization’s “control the zone” philosophy.

— Outfielder Dimas Ojeda (Clinton) received the Dan Wilson Minor League Community Service Award in recognition of his participation in numerous community events.

— Manager Cesar Nicolas (Dominican Summer League) received the Dave Henderson Minor League Staff Member of the Year award for his work in helping to sign and develop players.

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