SEATTLE -- Nelson Cruz didn't have to venture far to find the perfect role model for how to succeed as a designated hitter.
Major League Baseball announced Thursday that the 37-year-old Cruz has been selected as the 2017 winner of the Edgar Martinez Outstanding Designated Hitter Award, named after the man who has been Cruz's hitting coach with the Mariners for the past two and a half years.
"Nelson is truly deserving of the Edgar Martinez Outstanding Designated Hitter of the Year Award," Martinez said. "I see firsthand how his presence both in the clubhouse and in our lineup provides stability that makes his teammates around him better. While he goes about his work in a quiet way, we are glad that he is receiving the national recognition that he deserves."
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Cruz becomes the third Mariner to win the award. Willie Horton took the honor in 1979, and Martinez was a five-time winner (1995, 1997-98 and 2000-01) before Commissioner Bud Selig changed the award to be in Martinez's name in 2004.
Cruz led the American League with 119 RBIs while putting up a .288/.375/.549 slash line with 39 home runs in 155 games. He was fourth in the AL in home runs and fifth in slugging percentage and OPS. He hit 38 of his home runs while playing DH, breaking the previous Mariners record of 37 set by Martinez in 2000.
David Ortiz won the award eight times, including in 2016 before he retired from the Red Sox. Cruz was second in the voting that year. Former Mariner Kendrys Morales won the award in 2015 for the Royals, and Victor Martinez of the Tigers was the winner in '14.
Edwin Encarnacion of the Indians finished second in this year's balloting, which is conducted among AL beat writers, broadcasters and public relations departments and is now in its 44th year.