Oakland, Calif. — New York Yankees hitting coach Kevin Long has seen enough players struggle in the Home Run Derby to have concerns about how the contest will affect All-Star second baseman Robinson Cano.
“The history would suggest that guys who do the home run hitting contest get fatigued and exhausted from the process,” Long said Tuesday before the Yankees played the Athletics in Oakland. “It is taxing. It’s an explosive motion and he’s going to do it over and over again.”
Cano was one of six players picked Tuesday to participate in the event Monday in Anaheim. Detroit’s Miguel Cabrera, Boston’s David Ortiz and Toronto’s Vernon Wells were also selected in the AL, while Milwaukee’s Corey Hart and St. Louis’ Matt Holliday will participate for the NL. Two more National League players still need to be picked.
Long pointed to Bobby Abreu and Josh Hamilton, who struggled after recent derby success.
Abreu won the contest with 41 homers in 2005 when he played with Philadelphia, but he hit just six home runs after the break after having 18 in the first half. Hamilton hit a record 28 homers in the first round in 2008 at Yankee Stadium, then hit just 11 in the second half after having 21 before the break that season.
“Anytime you have one of your guys going there is a concern,” Long said. “It’s warranted too because of what’s happened in the past. … We don’t ever play home run derby. We don’t ever try to hit balls out of the park. It’s something he’s not accustomed to doing, that’s for sure.”
Manager Joe Girardi said it was an honor for Cano to be selected for the contest, but said he wanted to make sure Cano was as strong as possible for the second half.
For Cano, the selection is an acknowledgment of his emergence as one of the league’s top players this season. Cano came into Tuesday’s game second in the majors with a .342 batting average, leads all second baseman with 55 RBIs and his 16 homers are tied with Florida’s Dan Uggla for the most at the position.
“It’s an honor to go there,” Cano said. “You look back and the greatest guys go there. But the biggest thing for me is this team. I’m not going to go out there and try to do too much or anything. I’m just going to go out there and have fun.”
Cano said he won’t try to hit the ball as far as possible in the contest, but will plan to treat it like a regular batting practice session.
Teammate Alex Rodriguez, who has participated in a few home run contests without winning, said there are as many cases where players were just as good, or better, after winning the contest as there are memorable struggles.
“Just to say it was the Home Run Derby, I’m sure you can find cases where someone did fantastic in the Home Run Derby and did fantastic in the second half,” Rodriguez said.
One only needs to look at last year, when Milwaukee’s Prince Fielder hit 24 homers after winning the derby compared to 22 before the break. Among the other players not affected have been Vladimir Guerrero, Ryan Howard, Miguel Tejada, Jason Giambi, Sammy Sosa and Barry Bonds.
Rodriguez said his history in the event means he’s not the one to give tips to Cano about how to win it. His advice was very simple.
“Hit ’em far. Very far. Far. Far,” he said. “Yeah, do it. Why not? Have fun. He’s a kid. Why not? I’ll be watching. I’ll be cheering him on.”