Beltran excited for first Home Run Derby

ST. LOUIS – Cardinals switch-hitting outfielder Carlos Beltran hasn’t decided whether to hit left-handed or right-handed in next week’s Home Run Derby in Kansas City.

He’s just happy to be participating.

Already elected to start in the outfield for the National League, Beltran will cap off a memorable return to the city where he spent the first seven years of his career by stepping into the batters box for his first Home Run Derby appearance.

“It’s going to be exciting for sure,” Beltran said. “Pressure? Of course there will be pressure because everybody is watching you but I’m going to enjoy the moment and have fun with it. If I hit one, two, three, four, five, it doesn’t matter. I’m just going to have a good time.”

Beltran entered Monday’s game against the Colorado Rockies with 20 home runs, good for second in the National League. He’s on pace to finish near his career high of 41 home runs, set in 2006 with the Mets.

One would think the former Royal might have an advantage knowing what parts of the park the ball travels better to when deciding whether or not to hit left-handed or right-handed.

Beltran disagrees, saying he plans to take batting practice before the derby and make a final decision then.

“Who knows, man,” Beltran said. “I’m going to have to check out the wind and try to get some help from that. I don’t know yet.”

While discussing the event with a group of reporters near the Cardinals dugout Monday afternoon, Beltran brought up the possibility of hitting both right and left-handed should he struggle at first or get tired.

“I don’t know how the rules work,” Beltran said. “It would be great if I could switch if I get tired from one side to the other. It depends. Sometimes your swing from the right side that day could be a line drive swing and the other could be a fly ball swing. I just need to take batting practice before and see which side is working better.”

Beltran was picked to participate by National League captain Matt Kemp, who phoned former teammate Rafael Furcal to ask Beltran if he’d be interested. Also participating for the National League are the Marlins’ Giancarlo Stanton and the Rockies’ Carlos Gonzalez.

American League captain Robinson Cano of the Yankees selected the Angels’ Mark Trumbo, the Tigers’ Prince Fielder and the Blue Jays’ Jose Bautista.

Beltran recently became the eighth player to have 300 home runs and 300 stolen bases in his career. But he’s the first switch-hitter to achieve the feat.

“I’m just going to approach it like its batting practice,” Beltran said. “In batting practice sometimes when I want to hit a ball out, I go for it, but that doesn’t mean I’m trying to hit it 500 feet because I don’t have that kind of power. I’m looking forward to hitting the ball, making contact and if it goes, good. If not, what can I do?”

Beltran has yet to decide on a pitcher. As for advice for his first derby, Beltran said he plans to talk to both Lance Berkman and Matt Holliday about their previous experiences in the event.

“I will, to see how they approached it,” Beltran said. “And I’ve been to some All-Star games before and always stay for the Home Run Derby and watch what those guys do.

“They kind of take a swing, take a pitch, take a rest, they don’t try to swing at every pitch because you get tired if you do that even in batting practice. You have to pick your spots and look for the ball you can drive out of the ballpark. I’m not going to go there to really compete 100 percent. I’m just going to enjoy it.”