Orioles outfielder-designated hitter Nelson Cruz was invited to participate in this year’s All-Star Game Home Run Derby earlier this week, but the major leagues' co-home run leader said Sunday that he likely won't take part in the event.
Cruz said he didn’t necessarily think that participating in the event would affect his swing following the All-Star break. But with the Orioles in the playoff race, Cruz said he wouldn’t want to risk that.
The Home Run Derby, which will take place July 14 — the day before the All-Star Game — at Target Field in Minneapolis, is a popular fan event, but players have increasingly found themselves torn whether to participate.
“I don’t know if it would affect me, but even if it’s two or three games, that could be the difference between us making [the postseason],” Cruz said. “I don’t know if it’s worth that.”
After he went 1-for-4 with a walk in the Orioles’ 12-7 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays on Sunday, Cruz remains tied with the Toronto Blue Jays' Edwin Encarnacion and the Chicago White Sox's Jose Abreu for the major league home run lead with 25.
Cruz participated in the Home Run Derby in 2009 in St. Louis, and he was the runner-up to Prince Fielder, losing in the final round by one homer (6-5). Having been in the event previously, Cruz said he knows firsthand how different it can be and how it might mess with a hitter’s swing for the second half.
“It’s not like batting practice, where you’re hitting it all over the field,” Cruz said. “You’re trying to hit a homer on every swing, on every pitch.”
When Cruz participated in the event in 2009, he averaged one homer every 14.9 at-bats in the first half and one every 17 at-bats after the All-Star break.
Orioles first baseman Chris Davis ripped open a blister last season while participating in the Home Run Derby. On his way to hitting a franchise-record 53 homers, Davis hit just 16 in the second half.
Cruz, who has played in two previous All-Star Games in his career (2009, 2013), is in line to be voted to start for the first time in his career. He led the Boston Red Sox's David Ortiz as the highest vote-getter among American League designated hitters by more than 800,000 votes, as of the most-recent fan balloting numbers released last week.
Updated fan balloting numbers will be released Monday and the rosters for the All-Star Game, which will take place July 15, will be selected next weekend.