Home-field advantage won’t be the only thing Bryce Harper has going for him during Monday night’s Home Run Derby at Nationals Park. He’ll also be the only participant who has competed in the event previously, as a number of big-name sluggers all declined to participate.
MLB announced the field for the dinger exhibition on Wednesday night, with Harper (22 home runs through Wednesday) joining seven first-time participants: Brewers first baseman Jesus Aguilar (23), Dodgers infielder Max Muncy (21), Astros third baseman Alex Bregman (19), Cubs outfielder Kyle Schwarber (17), Cubs second baseman Javier Baez (18), Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman (16) and Phillies outfielder Rhys Hoskins (14).
Harper finished second to Yoenis Cespedes, then with the Athletics, in the 2013 Home Run Derby at Citi Field.
This year’s Home Run Derby follows the format MLB has employed since 2015. It’s an eight-hitter tournament, with the players seeded based on their home run totals:
Each batter gets four minutes per round to hit as many homers as possible, with the winner of each matchup advancing. If a slugger hits two home runs of at least 440 feet, he gets an extra 30 seconds of bonus time at the end of the round. Ties will be broken by a 60-second swing-off during which the clock will not stop and time will not be added. If things still are tied after that, the hitters will take part in successive three-swing swing-offs until there is a winner. Each batter gets one 45-second timeout in the first round and semifinals. In the final, each batter gets two timeouts, a 45-second timeout first and then a 30-second timeout.
MLB officials had to dig deep into the list of home run leaders — Hoskins is tied for 57th among the league’s leaders, for instance — after getting turned down by some of the game’s biggest names. Cleveland’s power-hitting duo of Jose Ramirez (27 homers) and Francisco Lindor (25) both declined, with Ramirez saying “it wasn’t the best thing for me to do at this time” and Lindor declaring that “I’m not a home run hitter. I don’t hit home runs in batting practice.”
The Red Sox’ Mookie Betts (22 homers) was more succinct in turning down a spot in the derby all the way back in May: “Hell no. I don’t hit home runs in BP. Can you imagine me going against Aaron Judge?”
He didn’t have to worry about that. Judge, the Yankees slugger and defending home run derby champion, said “I want to stay healthy” in turning down a spot. Giancarlo Stanton, his power-hitting teammate and the 2016 champion, also declined.
“Don’t want to; I’ve done it plenty of times,’’ Stanton told Newsday. “Take a year off, take two years off, if I want.’’
The Home Run Derby takes place Monday night at 8 p.m. Eastern (gates open at 5 p.m.). It will be televised by ESPN.
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