July 2nd, 2012
Prince Fielder has spent most of his first season in the American League batting closer to .300 than he has to the home-run leaders. That didn’t mean he was going to be passed up for the State Farm Home Run Derby.
The hemming and hawing from Fielder on Sunday after All-Star rosters were announced strongly suggested he was going to take part. On Monday, it became official when AL derby captain Robinson Cano named him to the team for the annual slugfest, set to take place next Monday night at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City.
It’ll be the third Home Run Derby for Fielder, who has a flair for clearing the fences when it takes place at a division rival’s park. He won the 2009 event when it was held at Busch Stadium in St. Louis and he was a Brewers slugger.
Fielder served as the National League captain as last year’s Derby and made it to the second round before losing out to eventual champion Cano and runner-up Adrian Gonzalez.
Fielder has indicated his interest remained over the past couple weeks as it became apparent his lead in All-Star balloting among AL first basemen was going to stick. The fact that he changed leagues had no impact on him. He didn’t confirm it when asked Sunday or Monday, but the coy nature of his answers gave a pretty strong indication he was taking part.
Fielder entered Monday’s series opener against the Twins with 12 home runs to go with a .296 batting average and 53 RBIs. Two dozen American League hitters entered the day with more homers than Fielder, but just a handful have the track record that Fielder has posted over the past seven years, and fewer have the derby history that he does.
Fielder and Cano will join two-time AL home-run champion Jose Bautista and Angels sophomore slugger Mark Trumbo on the team. Among those left off was Miguel Cabrera, who took part in the 2010 derby but wasn’t sure when asked Sunday if he would take part.
Fielder becomes the ninth Tiger to take part in the derby. They’ve combined for 33 home runs, but no titles.
The Tigers have right-handed hitter Ryan Raburn starting over Brennan Boesch against Twins right-hander Liam Hendriks. But there’s a trick to it: Right-handed hitters are batting 38-for-90 (.422) with eight home runs and eight other extra-base hits off Hendriks, while left-handed hitters are batting 13-for-58 (.224) against him.
Does that mean switch-hitting Ramon Santiago will bat right-handed against Hendriks? Um, no.
- Austin Jackson, CF
- Quintin Berry, LF
- Miguel Cabrera, 3B
- Prince Fielder, 1B
- Delmon Young, DH
- Ryan Raburn, RF
- Jhonny Peralta, SS
- Alex Avila, C
- Ramon Santiago, 2B
P: Doug Fister
- Denard Span, CF
- Ben Revere, RF
- Joe Mauer, DH
- Josh Willingham, LF
- Justin Morneau, 1B
- Trevor Plouffe, 3B
- Ryan Doumit, C
- Brian Dozier, SS
- Jamey Carroll, 2B
P: Liam Hendriks
If you were wondering where the sense of urgency was in the Tigers clubhouse, the Tigers might have found it. Considering the schedule, this seems to be a fitting time for it.
The Tigers had just lost to Yu Darvish and the Rangers Tuesday night when Alex Avila laid out the goals the Tigers had in mind when the trip began.
“I think we all have a pretty good feeling,” Avila said at the time. “I think our goal is to get to .500 or above .500 by the end of the road trip. That’s what we want to do. We’re in a good position to do that.”
The Tigers were 2-3 on the trip at the time. They would’ve had to win four of the final five games on the trip to get there. They didn’t make it, but at 5-5 for the trip, they’re very close.
They headed home Sunday at a game under .500, and three games behind the division-leading White Sox, with seven games coming up against the Twins (4) and Royals (3) at Comerica Park before the All-Star break. They’ve had seven chances to get back to .500 since they last sat there May 15. Avila expects them to get there eventually, and thinks is the chance.
“This series is over. Whether it helps us continue to play good baseball, I don’t know,” Avila said after Sunday’s 5-3 victory over the Rays. “I know we want to finish strong going into the break and at least be over .500 by the time we get to the break. Obviously, [that means] we have to win the next two series.”
He wasn’t the only one thinking this is the time for them to at least make the first step of their move.
“It’s not a time to back off, just because we’re headed towards that break,” Austin Jackson said. “I think this is the time to really push and try to come out on top for the first half.”