Morneau rounds out Derby field
Twins slugger to partake in second home run competition
DETROIT -- Just one day before the State Farm Home Run Derby was to take place at Yankee Stadium, Twins first baseman Justin Morneau became the eighth and final contestant in the contest.Morneau said he got a phone call from Major League Baseball representatives around 10:30 a.m. CT on Sunday asking him to be the final American League entrant. The Derby can be seen live on MLB.com by MLB.TV and All-Star package subscribers, and on ESPN, beginning at 7 p.m. CT.
And while Morneau seemed excited to take part in the event when he talked to reporters after Sunday's contest in Detroit, it was a decision that he admits took a little convincing this time.
This will be the second Derby for Morneau, who took part in the event in San Francisco last year during his first All-Star appearance. Morneau hit just four home runs at that time with manager Ron Gardenhire pitching to him and did not make it past the first round.During the second half of last season, Morneau questioned whether the event affected his swing. After hitting 24 home runs in the first half of last season, Morneau had just seven after the All-Star break. So he admits he was a tad hesitant to risk altering his swing once again. But Twins hitting coach Joe Vavra, who will be Morneau's pitcher in the event, and his fellow All-Star teammate Joe Mauer managed to convince him that wouldn't be the case. "Vavra told me if I just start flying open and trying to pull everything, we know how to fix it," Morneau said. "He gave me a little confidence." And what did Mauer tell him? "He said if I didn't want to do it, he'd do it," Morneau said with a laugh. "He just said I don't think two hours of swinging will mess up your swing." Morneau also believes that this year will be different, since he knows what to expect and has already experienced the adrenaline of such an atmosphere. "Now I know I don't have to try and overdo it, especially with a short right-field porch in Yankee Stadium," Morneau said. "It's one of those things you don't really want to miss out on." Morneau joins the Rangers' Josh Hamilton, the Rays' Evan Logoria and the Indians' Grady Sizemore as AL representatives. The Astros' Lance Berkman, the Brewers' Ryan Braun, the Marlins' Dan Uggla and the Phillies' Chase Utley will compete for the National League. This year's Home Run Derby will be televised on Monday night at 7 p.m. CT on ESPN. Despite having experience in the contest, Morneau agrees that he's likely the underdog this time around. While he's batting .323 on the season with 68 RBIs, he has the fewest home runs of any of the contestants, with 14 on the year. But the first baseman also acknowledged that it's the player who gets hot that will win. "You get in a groove in that thing, and you can hit a bunch of them," Morneau said. "That's when it becomes fun, when you are not trying too hard. You just kind of relax and start hitting them. You forget about what you are doing. I've been in the Minor League Derbys a couple times, and if it's going good, it's awesome. There is really nothing better." Morneau may have felt that the event had an impact on his swing last year. But since Morneau's power numbers have actually dropped in the first half this season, could the event possibly work in the opposite manner and help get him on a home run roll? "That would be nice," Morneau said. "In 2006, when I started swinging it well was when I was taking early batting practice and hitting a bunch of home runs in a row. That's what got me locked in, so who knows? It could."
Kelly Thesier is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.