Cruz adds Derby to All-Star nod
Rangers outfielder joins likes of Pujols, Howard in HR contest
SEATTLE -- Friday could not have gone much better for Texas outfielder Nelson Cruz.
Late at night, after being named as a replacement for injured Angels outfielder Torii Hunter in the All-Star Game, the Rangers slugger accepted an invitation to compete in Monday's State Farm Home Run Derby.Cruz also celebrated his All-Star selection by belting his 21st home run of the season in a win over the Mariners on Friday, tying him for second in the American League. Now he gets to showcase that talent along with Detroit's Brandon Inge and Minnesota's Joe Mauer on the AL side, and Prince Fielder, Ryan Howard, Adrian Gonzalez and Albert Pujols from the National League. Cruz thinks he can hold his own -- even if he doesn't match teammate Josh Hamilton's first-round total of 28 in last season's contest. "I think I have a chance," Cruz said on Saturday. "I don't expect to hit 20 homers like Josh." Cruz has competed in four home run derbies before, but this will be his first on the big stage. He said he made it to the final round in one in the Dominican Republic, as well as one of the two Triple-A contests he participated in. And he won a derby in Puerto Rico. His manager, Ron Washington, seemed cautiously optimistic about Cruz's participation in the Derby. Washington said he knows Cruz can pepper the outfield seats with the best of them, but wonders if it may impact his swing. "You always worry about that, because if you ever step in the batter's box and try to hit a home run, it's a lot more work than stepping up there and hitting it when you end up catching a pitch," Washington said. "But, you know, they're going to be shocked at what this boy can do, hitting the ball out of the ballpark in batting practice." Cruz isn't worried about the contest messing with his swing, adding that fatigue won't be an issue, either. "I hear people say that," Cruz said. "It's just like taking BP for me. I always do better the second half [of the season]. I don't know why. I work a lot harder, trying to keep myself strong until the end of the season. I don't worry about it." And the whole bit about not being able to match Hamilton? That would be just fine with Washington, who doesn't want to see his leading home run hitter run out of gas. "Only one thing I hope is that if [Cruz] gets a lead and he can sit on it, sit on it," Washington said. "Josh had all those home runs and he really didn't have to hit the second round, he could just hang out and wait for the last round, but Josh kept going. If Cruz has got a lead I sure hope he sits on it."
Christian Caple is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.