For Immediate Release
November 8th, 2002

 Rolaids Relief Man AwardMidland’s Kazuhiro Sasaki and Chicago’s Billy Wagner, both of whom anchored their team’s drive in 2002, closed the door again on Friday. Sasaki and Wagner won the Rolaids Relief Man of the Year Awards for the NL and AL, respectively. It was the first time Sasaki won the award, and the third time that Wagner held the hardware.

For Sasaki — who led the NL with 34 saves, it was the culmination of the most successful transition from a good solid closer to a lights out closer. Sasaki edged another solid reliever, Los Angeles’ Felix Rodriguez, by just two points (96-94). Sasaki is the first time a Mudhen reliever has won the award.

Having spent his career with the Chicago Mobsters, Wagner has been pretty lucky in his relief efforts over the years. He saved 40 games and added 4 victories for 118 points to hold off Canton Marino Rivera (106) and Warfield’s Troy Percival (81). Wagner becomes the third time winner of the award.  “He seems to have the even years wrapped up” said Chicago General Manager John “Stray” Corrado.  Wagner has brought the hardware home in 1998, 2002 and 2002.

A simple review of the names chasing the award — Sasaki, Wagner, Rivera, Rodriguez, Percival, Isringhausen, Koch, and Mesa — reveals the importance of having a stellar closer. Sasaki and Wagner bump Rob Nenn and Keith Foulke, last year’s winners, from the top spot.Despite Sasaki’s effort, the Mudhens were fourth in the National League in Rolaids Team Bullpen Award. Ahead of the Mudhens where Tempe, Los Angeles, and Kentucky, all National League playoff teams.  Chicago on the other side of the league was second in the League trailing only the Canton Indians.Rolaids, which has been honoring relief pitchers since the beginning of the Mid-West Baseball League, awards three points for each save, a bonus point if the pitcher enters the game with the tying run or runs already on base (tough save), and two points for a relief victory. Two points are deducted for a loss or a blown save.

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