Fielder defends Derby title tonight

DETROIT — Prince Fielder will have a lot of fans cheering him on in the 2013 Home Run Derby (tonight at 8 on ESPN).

Five of his teammates will be joining him at the New York Mets’ Citi Field: Miguel Cabrera, Torii Hunter, Max Scherzer, Justin Verlander and Jhonny Peralta.

But Fielder’s two biggest fans are his sons, Jadyn, 8, and Haven, 7, and they’re the main reasons why Fielder will be making his fifth appearance in the event.

“It’s fun because my boys love it,” Fielder said. “Because they love it, I love it.”

Jadyn and Haven have every reason to love the event because their father has won it twice, last season at Kaufman Field in Kansas City (beating Toronto’s Jose Bautista), and in 2009 at Busch Stadium in St. Louis (beating Texas’ Nelson Cruz).

Ken Griffey Jr. is the only other player to win more than one Home Run Derby.

Fielder, who has 16 homers this season, just shrugged when asked why he was so successful in the event.

“It’s kind of the way I swing naturally, so it’s easy because of that,” Fielder said. “I don’t know. There’s really no way to prepare for it. Obviously, you just gotta try to go hit home runs.”

Hunter, who didn’t make it out of the first round when he tried the Home Run Derby in 2002, said Fielder is a natural.

“Because he’s going for the fence no matter what,” Hunter said. “That’s what he’s here for; he’s here to hit homers and hit the ball hard. That’s his thing.

“For me, I’m a doubles guy that tried to hit in the Home Run Derby.”

Fielder said Sandy Guerrero, who has been his pitcher for the Derby several times, will serve that role again. Guerrero is currently the Milwaukee Brewers minor-league hitting coordinator.

Tigers manager Jim Leyland is on record saying the Home Run Derby is a little too long and forces the players to take too many swings.

But Fielder said you just have to pace yourself when you’re batting.

“You try to take some pitches every now and then,” Fielder said. “Take one swing, take a couple pitches. It depends how you feel.

“If you feel really good, swing back-to-back if you want. Try to take a couple pitches in between just to get your breath a little bit.”

The other participants from the American League are Baltimore’s Chris Davis, the New York Yankees’ Robinson Cano and Oakland’s Yoenis Cespedes. Cano won the Derby in 2011.

The National League participants are the New York Mets’ David Wright, Washington’s Bryce Harper, Pittsburgh’s Pedro Alvarez and Colorado’s Michael Cuddyer.

Davis will likely be the focus of a lot of attention. He hit a major league-leading 37 home runs in the first half, tying Reggie Jackson’s American League record for most home runs before the break.

Cabrera hit in the Derby in 2006 and 2010 and made it to the final four both times.

This year, Cabrera, who has 30 homers at the break, was invited but decided not to participate because of some stiffness in his back and hip.

Not surprisingly, Verlander said he was picking Fielder to defend his title, but not because he’s won it twice.

“I’m picking him because of the (batting practice) show he put on in Toronto when they had a packed house,” Verlander said. “It was Canada Day, so everybody was in the stadium early. They probably had 30,000 people in the stadium, so he started kind of putting on a show and it was unbelievable.

“He was hitting them in the fourth deck, just making people ooh and aah.”