Ortiz close to solidifying AL's Derby field

Ortiz close to solidifying AL's Derby field

HOUSTON -- As the American League's captain in the State Farm Home Run Derby, David Ortiz is close to finalizing the three sluggers who will swing for the fences with him at Chase Field in Phoenix.

Adrian Gonzalez, Ortiz's teammate, is in. So, too, Ortiz said, is Jose Bautista, the Blue Jays slugger who leads the Majors with 27 homers.

Ortiz revealed Sunday that Mark Teixeira was his choice for the final spot on the AL's Derby entry. However, now that Teixeira did not make the All-Star team, the Yankees' slugger said he is going to bypass the event.

"I'd been texting with David a little bit and I told him that if I was on the team, we'd talk," Teixeira said. "If I'm not on the team, I'm not going to go to the Home Run Derby. It's just too long of a trip and I'm going to spend those days with my family."

While Big Papi said that Yankees second baseman Robinson Cano said he would definitely participate in the Derby if asked, he mentioned Josh Hamilton as another player he will definitely talk to.


Clearly, Ortiz, who won the Derby last year in Anaheim, is having fun with the new-this-year process of filling out the AL's Derby squad. Milwaukee's Prince Fielder is the captain in the NL.

Ortiz can't wait to watch Bautista take aim at the fences at Chase Field.

"He's very excited," Ortiz said. "I called him, and he was like, 'You don't have to say it twice.' I know Bautista should have been in it last year, but they already picked Vernon Wells. They can't do anything. I was a little upset about it, because I wanted to see Bautista hitting out there. I wanted everybody to know what he was all about. Now, I called him."

It didn't take a phone call to solidify the services of Gonzalez. He just had to look a few lockers away.

"We're having a great time," Ortiz said of playing with Gonzalez. ""Gonzo is a great kid," said Ortiz. "We hit in the same group and everything. We start pushing each other when we're hitting in batting practice. If I hit one out, he comes and hits two, and then I go and hit three and he goes and hits four. We're kind of always going back and forth.

"When we started talking about the Home Run Derby, they told me, 'You can pick three guys with you to go to the Home Run Derby,' and the first thing that came to my mind was Gonzo. He's ridiculous when he hits in batting practice. He tells me things in batting practice, where he wants to hit the ball, and then he goes and hits it. That's how easy he makes it look like. It's like, 'Wait a minute. That's my guy. I've got to bring Gonzo to the Home Run Derby.'"

Gonzalez looks forward to giving a better showing than in St. Louis in 2009, when he hit just two over the fence. On that occasion, Gonzalez was weary from a traveling nightmare, in which he flew from San Diego to Las Vegas, than Las Vegas to Indianapolis, and had to drive to St. Louis.

"That's going to be fun," Gonzalez said. "Hopefully I can do better the second time around, but I'm going to enjoy it just like I did the first time and try my best."

While some hitters complain the Derby can alter their swings, Ortiz and Gonzalez aren't in that camp.

"No, there's always times in BP when I try to hit home runs anyway," Gonzalez said. "Trying to hit home runs in BP is just part of being a ballplayer. I can see why people can say it affects their swing, but I don't see it affecting my swing."

Gonzalez has enjoyed his personal batting-practice derbies with Ortiz this season.

"It's fun," Gonzalez said. "We always give ourselves an area where we're trying to hit home runs. We're always having fun with it, picking either rounds or situations where we can see how far we can hit the ball."

And no, Gonzalez said, he's not the only one who can call his shots.

"Papi can definitely call his as well," Gonzalez said.

Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brownie Points, and follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.