ORLANDO -- This could be Ron Gardenhire's day.

After finishing as the runner up in the American League Manager of the Year voting five times (2003, 2004, 2006, 2008, 2009), Gardenhire is one of two leading candidates for this year's award, along with the Rangers' Ron Washington.

"Absolutely I’m pulling for [Gardenhire]," Twins General Manager Bill Smith said here at baseball's annual GM meetings. "I think he richly deserves it. I said last year, in '09, I thought it was the best job of managing he’d done, and I think this year was better."

The Twins won 94 games despite losing All-Star closer Joe Nathan in spring training and All-Star first baseman Justin Morneau half-way through the season. The Rangers won 90 games to win the AL West and advanced to the World Series.

The baseball writers -- two from each AL market, so 28 overall -- cast their ballots before the postseason begins, so another early playoff exit for the Twins won't be a factor.

The announcement gets made at 1 p.m. (Central), so check back here for the results.

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Ron Gardenhire wins AL Manager of the Year award