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Shelton named AL Player of the Week

Shelton named AL Player of the Week

If anyone was surprised Chris Shelton earned American League Player of the Week honors, it might have been Shelton himself.

After a roller-coaster spring in which he hit just .257 and struck out 18 times, the quiet Tigers first baseman vaulted into the national spotlight during baseball's opening week with five home runs in his first four games. It was a feat last matched by Giants slugger Barry Bonds in 2002.

"I've hit relatively like this during the course of a week, but not power-wise," Shelton said after his two-run homer Friday turned a one-run game into a comfortable lead for the surging Tigers. "It's kind of overwhelming. I can't believe I'm hitting home runs as regularly as I am.

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"I'm not going up there trying to hit home runs. The power part is kind of shocking. It's kind of surprising."

Often stressing that he's not doing anything different at the plate, Shelton crashed through his preseason hitter's block in grand style. His bat is a big reason Detroit fired off to a 5-0 start -- a mark it hadn't seen since the 1985 season.

Tigers manager Jim Leyland, though rightfully pleased, seemed as puzzled as Shelton when asked about the offensive outburst.

"That's as good as it gets on the teams I've managed," Leyland said of Shelton's week. "I just want to get base hits. He's swinging the bat and it goes over the fence. I don't know how that works."

Shelton, 25, batted .583 in the first six games of the 2006 season while leading the league with 14 hits, nine RBIs, a 1.458 slugging percentage and 35 total bases. He also posted a .615 on-base percentage with seven runs scored, two triples and two doubles. On April 3, in his first career Opening Day start at first, Shelton connected for two home runs and went 3-for-4 in Detroit's win at Kansas City.

"It's a Nintendo-type number," teammate Curtis Granderson said last week. "You get on there, you make one of the top hitters on the game and you just seem to not get out. That's what's going on right now."

Shelton, a 2003 Rule 5 draftee, collected multiple hits in each of the first five games of the season, including his second career multi-homer game Thursday at Texas. On Saturday, the Salt Lake City, Utah, native went 3-for-4 with three RBIs and two triples.

Extra work during Spring Training has let Shelton shine on the field as well. His 57 putouts not only heads the Tigers' stingy defensive effort this season, but had him tied for the lead through Sunday among AL first basemen.

It is the first career weekly award for Shelton and it marks the second consecutive season that a Tiger has claimed the prize in the inaugural week -- Dmitri Young won for the opening week of the 2005 campaign.

Also up for this week's award were Cleveland's Travis Hafner (.391, 4 HR, 6 RBIs), Hideki Matsui (.400, 3 HR, 7 RBIs) of the Yankees and Jim Thome (.333, 3 HR, 5 RBIs) of the White Sox. Pitchers considered for the award were Boston right-hander Curt Schilling (2-0, 1.93 ERA, 14 IP), Cleveland's Jake Westbrook (2-0, 1.98 ERA, 13 2/3 IP) and Vincent Padilla (2-0, 3.00 ERA, 12 IP) of Texas.

Dawn Klemish 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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