Mauer accepts invitation to participate in home run derbyMINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Joe Mauer’s sudden power has earned him a place in baseball’s home run derby. Mauer accepted an invitation Friday to participate in the popular All-Star week event Monday night in St. Louis. The Twins catcher will try to pick up where teammate Justin Morneau left off last year.
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Joe Mauer’s sudden power has earned him a place in baseball’s home run derby.
Mauer accepted an invitation Friday to participate in the popular All-Star week event Monday night in St. Louis. The Twins catcher will try to pick up where teammate Justin Morneau left off last year.
Morneau overtook Josh Hamilton and won the competition in 2008, but the first baseman decided he wanted to rest this time. Several other sluggers around the American League have opted out, too, including Hamilton, Mark Teixeira and Torii Hunter; the lineup is still being put together. From the National League, Ryan Howard, Albert Pujols, Prince Fielder and Adrian Gonzalez have been named as entrants.
Mauer, fondly remembering the days of playing home run derby in the backyard against his buddies, was more than happy to take part.
“I don’t really go up there and try to hit home runs all the time, but we’ll just have some fun with it and see what happens,” said Mauer, who has hit 15 of his 59 career home runs since coming off the disabled list on May 1.
Therein lies the intrigue with Mauer’s participation: This is only the second time in six major league seasons he’s hit double-digit homers, and when he does go deep it’s usually to the opposite field.
Mauer’s smooth, short left-handed swing is one of the purest in baseball, helping him win two AL batting titles and take over the league lead in hitting again this summer with a .389 average entering Friday’s game against the Chicago White Sox.
“He told me it was a single-up-the-middle contest, and that’s why he’s doing it,” manager Ron Gardenhire joked.
Mauer will have Jim O’Neill, his old coach at Cretin-Derham Hall High School in St. Paul, there to help him out. Mauer and his high school teammates always raved about O’Neill’s “money” batting practice throws, so he asked his former mentor to come to Busch Stadium to pitch to him during the contest.
Perhaps Mauer’s flawless swing will be immune to the second-half problems that derby participants in years past have sometimes encountered and blamed on the All-Star break competition to crush soft tosses into the seats. Mauer’s swing is so solid it’s tough to see it getting out of whack.
“I don’t think one night will affect your swing for the rest of the season,” Mauer said. “It might be a little tiring, but as far as mechanically I don’t think so.”
Morneau wasn’t worried about him.
“There’s a lot of pressure when you’re standing up there and all eyes are on you,” Morneau said, “but the way he is I think he’ll handle it pretty well. I’ve never really seen him get nervous about anything.”