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Kimbrel, Hellickson chosen top rookies

NEW YORK (AP) ― Craig Kimbrel overpowered hitters with his rocket right arm, then overwhelmed rivals in the NL Rookie of the Year voting.

If only, the Atlanta Braves’ closer figured, his final outing could’ve gone better.

Kimbrel unanimously won the NL honor on Monday, with Tampa Bay pitcher Jeremy Hellickson a clear choice as the top rookie in the AL.

Kimbrel set a major league record for saves by a rookie with 46. He earned all 32 first-place votes in balloting by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America and outpointed Braves teammate Freddie Freeman.

“It definitely did surprise me,” Kimbrel said on a conference call from his vacation in Hawaii. “I expected it to be close.”

Kimbrel was dominant for much of the year, chosen as an NL All-Star during his streak of 38 straight appearances without allowing a run. But that streak ended in mid-September and the 23-year-old Kimbrel struggled as the Braves frittered away a 10 1/2-game lead in the NL wild-card race.

Kimbrel’s eighth blown save of the year came in the final game of the season, when he walked three, gave up a hit and allowed the tying run in the ninth inning against Philadelphia. The Phillies went on to win in the 13th, costing the Braves a spot in a one-game playoff against St. Louis for the wild-card slot.

“I blew many saves throughout the year. It just so happened that one came in the last game of the year with everything on the line,” he said. “My control was not there, I was all over the place.

“I’m going to get over it, but I’m not going to forget it,” he said. “I need to fix it.”

Kemp says he is close to huge deal

Matt Kemp and the Los Angeles Dodgers are close to completing a long-term contract.

ESPN and the Los Angeles Times reported that the All-Star center fielder is on the verge of signing an eight-year, $160 million deal, but Kemp said no agreement has been finalized.

“We’ve still got a little bit more to go, little more things to work out,” Kemp said Monday following the dedication of a youth field in Compton, where he was joined by outgoing Dodgers owner Frank McCourt. “Hopefully I’ll be a Dodger for years to come.”

The team declined to comment. Kemp’s agent, Dave Stewart, didn’t immediately return a call seeking comment.

The deal would make Kemp one of baseball’s highest-paid players and it would be the largest in team history.
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