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Youkilis shoots for Aaron Award repeat

Youkilis shoots for Aaron Award repeat

BOSTON -- Kevin Youkilis has a chance at a repeat.

Along with teammates Jason Bay and Dustin Pedroia, the Red Sox corner infielder is among 90 Major Leaguers who have been chosen as finalists for the 2009 edition of the Hank Aaron Award, an honor Youkilis claimed last season on behalf of the American League.

The Hank Aaron Award, presented by Sharp, is awarded annually to the top overall offensive performer in each league, with three nominees per club. Created in 1999 to honor the 25th anniversary of Aaron breaking Babe Ruth's all-time home run record, it was the first major award introduced by Major League Baseball in 30 years.

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A two-time All-Star, Youkilis entered Wednesday batting .310 with 20 home runs and 66 RBIs in 98 games this season, but defensive versatility has been his calling card this season.

With third baseman Mike Lowell recently relegated to part-time duty while continuing to recover from offseason hip surgery, and newcomer Victor Martinez seeing time at first base, Youkilis' ability to play third without comprising his defense has allowed manager Terry Francona to keep the slugger's bat in the lineup on a regular basis.

Youkilis set career highs and led the Red Sox last year with 29 homers and 115 RBIs, finishing third to Pedroia and Minnesota's Justin Morneau in AL Most Valuable Player voting.

"Well, I don't think I can ever compare myself to Hank Aaron in any way," Youkilis said after winning the 2008 award. "I'll never see myself in that level. So to win this award, I don't know, I'm a little humbled by it. It's great just to be able to have an award that's named after somebody that exemplified so much in this game, and has brought so much history to this game."

"It's an honor just to be named in the same sentence. So for me, I'm thrilled."

He'll have to beat out Bay and Pedroia to be Boston's '09 nominee, decided in a fan vote running through Sept. 15. Balloting will continue from Sept. 16-30 to determine a representative from each league. The winners, chosen by the fans for the seventh-consecutive year, are scheduled to be announced during the World Series.

Acquired from Pittsburgh last July in a blockbuster trade that sent Manny Ramirez out of Boston, Bay has supplied plenty of pop from the middle of the Red Sox batting order this season. The left fielder came into Wednesday's action boasting a team-best 26 homers and 84 RBIs through 111 contests.

Then there's Pedroia, the reigning AL MVP who continues to establish himself as one of the game's premier second basemen. The two-time All-Star began Wednesday sporting a .295 average to accompany his 10 homers and 51 RBIs in 112 games.

Past winners of the Hank Aaron Award include Ramirez and Sammy Sosa (1999); Carlos Delgado and Todd Helton (2000); Alex Rodriguez and Barry Bonds (2001, '02); Rodriguez and Albert Pujols ('03); Ramirez and Bonds ('04); David Ortiz and Andruw Jones ('05); Derek Jeter and Ryan Howard ('06); Rodriguez and Prince Fielder ('07); and Youkilis and Aramis Ramirez.

John Barone is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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