Sizemore carries big bat into Derby
Slugger's tater total ties him for fourth in Major Leagues
DETROIT -- If Grady Sizemore wants to win the State Farm Home Run Derby at Yankee Stadium next Monday, perhaps he should ask to bat first.
After all, Sizemore has grown accustomed to providing power from the leadoff spot. He took a league-leading 22 home runs into Tuesday night's game against the Tigers.
That penchant for pop earned Sizemore the opportunity to become the first Indians player since Jim Thome in 1998 to compete in the Home Run Derby, which will take place as part of the 2008 All-Star Game festivities. The competition will be televised at 8 p.m. ET on ESPN.
"I want to try it," Sizemore said. "I want to have fun and see what it's like."
Sizemore, who is making his third consecutive appearance on the AL All-Star team, is batting .269 with 56 runs scored, 18 doubles, four triples, 50 RBIs and 22 stolen bases in 95 games. His home run total ties him with five other players for fourth in the Majors, trailing only the Phillies' Chase Utley (25) and Ryan Howard (24), and the Marlins' Dan Uggla (23). If he can keep this up in the second half, he can become the first Indians player to lead the league in home runs since Albert Belle cranked out 50 in 1995.The 25-year-old Sizemore is the only AL player with 20 or more homers and 20 or more stolen bases. He hit the 100th homer of his career on Saturday in Minnesota and is just six shy of equaling his career-best of 28, set in 2006. The Home Run Derby began in 1985. Since that time, only three Indians have participated -- Belle in '93, '94 and '95; Manny Ramirez in '95; and Thome in '97 and '98. The Rangers' Josh Hamilton, Uggla, Utley and the Astros' Lance Berkman are also scheduled to compete in this year's event, with three others yet to be announced.
Sizemore already has his Derby partner picked out. Bench coach Jeff Datz, who traditionally tosses batting practice to Sizemore, will be his pitcher in the event.
"I'm honored to do it," Datz said. "I'll try to throw to G the way I throw to him every day and let him have at it."Manager Eric Wedge said he has no reservations about his star center fielder taking part in the Derby, even though some players have complained in the past that their participation affected their swings in the second half. "Grady has a knack for figuring it out," Wedge said. "He has good court awareness. I hope he enjoys it."
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.