WASHINGTON -- The Orioles’ best slugger won’t participate in this year’s Home Run Derby, but the club still will be represented at the event.
Designated hitter Nelson Cruz, who entered Tuesday leading the major leagues with 28 home runs, declined an invitation from American League captain Jose Bautista of the Toronto Blue Jays. But center fielder Adam Jones didn’t turn down the opportunity to hit in the annual event, which will be held Monday at Target Field in Minneapolis.
“I said, ‘What do you want to do? And [Jones] said, ‘I think I want to do it.’ And I go, ‘fine,’” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said before Tuesday’s game against the Washington Nationals was rained out. “I’m proud of him. He’ll represent us well.”
Both Cruz and Jones will start for the AL in the All-Star Game next Tuesday night at Target Field. The winning league secures home-field advantage in the World Series.
“I just want [Jones] to really understand that we hope who wins that game is a big deal,” Showalter said.
Orioles bullpen catcher Jett Ruiz, a childhood friend of Jones’, will throw to the center fielder in the Home Run Derby, Showalter said.
Jones entered Tuesday with 16 home runs this season, and he hit 65 combined in 2012 and 2013. He has never participated in the Home Run Derby.
“We all know Adam swings hard anyway, so this won’t be something new, right?” Showalter said. “I’m proud of him. I’m glad he’s getting a chance.”
Cruz, meanwhile, said he doesn’t think that participating in the Home Run Derby would affect his swing for the rest of the season.
But he said he thinks that it could hamper him for about a week after the All-Star break. And with his club poised to contend for the AL East title, Cruz doesn’t want to take any unnecessary risks.
“I knew my decision before [Bautista] called me,” Cruz said in Spanish on Tuesday. “What the Orioles need is to start the second half well. The most important thing for me, and for my team, is to start the second half well.
“[It would affect me] for a pair of games, maybe three, four games. But sometimes, you miss the playoffs by one game. I don’t want to take the chance of not being 100 percent for one or two games.”
Cruz isn’t the only high-profile player to turn down an invitation to the Home Run Derby. The Detroit Tigers’ Miguel Cabrera and the Los Angeles Angels’ Mike Trout also won’t participate.
But Showalter isn’t concerned about Jones’ mechanics suffering a setback because of the Home Run Derby.
“That is his swing,” Showalter said. “I’ll tell you the truth, if I had to pick one of two guys to do it, I’d pick Jonesy. You can get hurt or get tired going through the parking lot.”