Cano confirmed for Home Run Derby
MLB announces first six contestants for slugging exhibition
OAKLAND -- Robinson Cano seems to flick batting-practice home runs with ease no matter where the Yankees travel, so it should be no stretch for him to step to the plate in next Monday's State Farm Home Run Derby.
The real challenge for Cano may come in convincing the Yankees that the homer-hitting exhibition at Angel Stadium won't affect his chances of continuing his strong start in the second half of the regular season.
"I understand the most important thing for me is the second half and the team," Cano said. "I'm going to go out there and have fun, and not mess up my swing."
Cano said that he was "honored" to be included among the first six Major Leaguers who have committed to participating in the Home Run Derby. The 27-year-old's left-handed stroke produced 16 homers through 82 games for New York this season.
While Yankees manager Joe Girardi and hitting coach Kevin Long were pleased that Cano is being recognized on the national stage, they are also concerned by the chances of injury and the possibility that Cano's swing could be affected.
"I would prefer that he's not involved in it, but that's not my decision," Long said. "It's just an exhausting process. It takes a lot out of you. It's taxing. You see guys come back after the home run-hitting contest, and it affects their swing."
Girardi said he was also thinking about the toll the competition might have on Cano, who entered play on Tuesday with a .342 batting average, second in the Major Leagues.
"I think it's a lot of swings for a player," Girardi said. "Physically, I think it's somewhat of a grind. But I think it's an honor to be involved. ... [Participating is] a decision that he has to make. It's not a decision that I can make for him.
"The biggest thing is that we keep Robinson Cano healthy and strong all year. If that in any way would fatigue him, then I would prefer he didn't get fatigued."
But Alex Rodriguez -- who was not invited to take part, and would have declined anyway because of his right hip condition -- said that he was in favor of Cano's participation.
"I know different guys have different opinions on it," Rodriguez said. "The way Robbie is swinging the bat, I don't think anything can affect him. ... Hit them far -- very far. Have fun. He's a young kid. Why not? I'll be watching him."
Cano said that he could participate in the Home Run Derby without worry, promising that he will keep the Yankees in his mind before anything else. He plans to ask bench coach Tony Pena, his normal BP pitcher, to fill those duties in Anaheim.
"I'm not going to just hit the balls farther or anything like that," Cano said. "I'm just going out there and I'll swing like I swing in BP. I'm not trying to do too much and mess up my swing."
Long said that he believes Cano might contend deep into the competition if he catches a good groove. And in that case, for the first time ever, Long said he would not be cheering for Cano to keep swinging.
"We don't ever play Home Run Derby," Long said. "We don't ever try to hit balls out of the park. It's something that he's not accustomed to doing, that's for sure. There's a big difference. You're trying to launch balls as far as you can.
"He's got a lot of pop. He's a big, strong kid. He's certainly capable of going far. He's got the type of swing that once he gets on a roll, I could see him going deep into it. ... This will be the first time that I root against him."
The 2010 State Farm Home Run Derby, part of Gatorade All-Star Workout Day, will be broadcast live on ESPN, ESPN HD, ESPN Deportes, ESPN 3D and ESPN Radio in the United States beginning at 8 p.m. ET.
The American League's Home Run Derby squad will also feature Miguel Cabrera of the Tigers, David Ortiz of the Red Sox and Vernon Wells of the Blue Jays. The two National League participants thus far are Corey Hart of the Brewers and Matt Holliday of the Cardinals.
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.