Baltimore Orioles slugger Nelson Cruz will likely pass up the opportunity to participate in this year’s Home Run Derby over concerns that the event might impact his swing, reports Eduardo A. Encina of the Baltimore Sun.
One of the league’s most prolific power hitters, Cruz was invited by MLB to join this year’s Home Run Derby along with other big names. Currently tied atop the AL’s home run leaderboard with Toronto’s Edwin Encarnacion and Chicago’s Jose Abreu at 25 homers apiece, he says he doesn’t want to risk losing the groove he’s gotten into over the past few months.
“I don’t know if it would affect me, but even if it’s two or three games, that could be the difference between us making [the postseason],” Cruz said. “I don’t know if it’s worth that.”
While there’s no historical proof that participating in the Home Run Derby negatively affects hitters, we’ve seen past concerns that excessively swinging for the fences can mess up a guy’s mojo. Cruz participated in the event back in 2009 when he was with the Texas Rangers, finishing runner-up to Prince Fielder, and noted the altered approach that’s needed.
“It’s not like batting practice, where you’re hitting it all over the field,” Cruz said. “You’re trying to hit a homer on every swing, on every pitch.”
The Orioles likely won’t mind Cruz’s decision after what happened to star first baseman Chris Davis last year. Davis entered the All-Star break in 2013 with an astonishing 37 homers, but after tearing open a blister during the Derby, ended up smacking just 16 homers in the second half.
Attributing all of Davis’ decline to the Derby wouldn’t be fair, but it’s still something that other hitters clearly consider when participating. With this year’s event set for July 14, one day before the All-Star Game, we should know soon which players will be filling out the field.
Cruz, 33, is also in line to make his third All-Star team this season. He’s batted .285/.350/.579 with 25 homers in 337 plate appearances.