ST. LOUIS — When the Home Run Derby begins on Monday night, there is certain to be a lot of talk about the guy who isn’t in it, a guy who, by the way, has never even won it.
A year after Josh Hamilton put on a display that has become the defining moment of his career, whalloping 35 homers in the Derby at Yankee Stadium, he’ll be back as a spectator. Although Major League Baseball would certainly have loved to have Hamilton return, he decided that, after two trips to the DL this year, it wouldn’t be a good idea.
“It really is [going to be hard to watch],” Hamilton said. “I really wish I could be there and participate in it, but it’s not the best thing for the Rangers and for me to get up there and hurt myself. These guys haven’t been injured and they could very easily get up there and hurt themselves. To get up there and take that many hacks, especially that hard, wouldn’t be a smart idea.”
If you ask Hamilton, though, this year’s Derby might create a new star: his Rangers teammate, Nelson Cruz.
Cruz, who didn’t even make the squad until Dustin Pedroia had to pull out, has hit 22 homers so far this year, equaling his career total coming into the season.
“A lot of people don’t know about him,” Hamilton said. “They don’t know the name. They don’t know what he can do. But he has the best raw power, honestly, I’ve ever seen in a player.”
Rays first baseman Carlos Pena agrees. When a reporter quipped to Pena that someone might hit the Arch, Pena said: “Maybe Nelson Cruz will. I’m telling you, this guy’s got a monster swing.”