Previously, all outfielders were in the pool, and frequently three center fielders were honored. The timing of the alteration could prevent the Angels' Peter Bourjos from claiming a prize he seemingly has merited with his brilliant play in center in his first full big league season.
"Peter is absolutely deserving of a Gold Glove as far as I'm concerned," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "No question about it."
The new rule puts Bourjos in direct competition with such talented athletes as Boston's Jacoby Ellsbury, Detroit's Austin Jackson, Baltimore's Adam Jones, New York's Curtis Granderson and Seattle's Franklin Gutierrez.
Torii Hunter, Bourjos' teammate and nine-time Gold Glove winner as a center fielder, is now in competition with the likes of the Yankees' Nick Swisher and the Orioles' Nick Markakis.
"Maybe I'll sneak in and win No. 10," Hunter said, grinning.
Vernon Wells, a three-time Gold Glove winner while playing center for Toronto, goes against the favorite in left, Brett Gardner of the Yankees.
"Naturally, I'd love to win a Gold Glove," Bourjos said. "But I also realize there are a lot of great center fielders in the league."
Bourjos, depending on whose metrics you prefer, is ranked either first or second among American League center fielders defensively. Ellsbury has the edge in some statistical evaluations, while Bourjos prevails in others.
What matters, however, is how the men in the dugouts whose living it is to judge such matters vote. The advantage Bourjos clearly has over Ellsbury is his strong and accurate arm, but that is difficult to measure statistically because of the variables involved.
In what amounted to a two-month audition last season, which took him out of this year's Rookie of the Year race, Bourjos racked up an amazing 10 assists -- a record pace if projected across a full season.
Alert now to the dangers of trying to take the extra base against the ultra-quick Angel in the outfield, runners are not testing Bourjos nearly as frequently in his sophomore season. Accordingly, his assists numbers have dropped off, costing him ratings points in the computer machinations.
"I know who gets my vote," said Angels third-base coach Dino Ebel, who has seen seen Bourjos' impact on an everyday basis. "I'll take Pete."
In eight of the nine years that Hunter won Gold Gloves, there were two center fielders selected along with right fielder Ichiro Suzuki. Wells rounded out the threesome for three consecutive seasons.
In 2007, when Ichiro was moved from right, all three Gold Glovers played center. Fourteen times it's been an all-center field Gold Glove alignment for the AL.