07/01/08 6:26 PM ET
A-Rod won't participate in Derby
Top vote-getter for third basemen cites responsibility to Yanks
By Willie Bans / MLB.com
Rodriguez, who is tied with Jimmie Foxx for 14th on the career homer list with 534, said he will again skip the annual home run-hitting contest over a concern that it will negatively affect his swing.
"It's always been [a concern] for me," said Rodriguez, the leading vote-getter at third base for the American League All-Star team.
Rodriguez, who is hitting .322 with 16 home runs and 44 RBIs for the Yankees this season, made similar comments after passing on the Home Run Derby last season, when the All-Star Game was in San Francisco.
"I've never been good at it, No. 1," Rodriguez said last year. "I've worked hard for my swing and I definitely don't want to let anything get in the way of it. My only responsibility this year is to the New York Yankees."
Rodriguez finished in sixth place in each of the three times he's appeared in the event, most recently in 2002.
Yankees manager Joe Girardi said he'd be fine whether or not Rodriguez -- or any other New York player -- accepted an invitation. Girardi doesn't believe that the absence of Rodriguez -- who had the most votes for all AL players entering Sunday -- in the event in his home stadium will take away from the contest's luster.
"I don't think so, because there's been a number of times that a guy like Alex hasn't participated in a Home Run Derby," Girardi said. "I think people understand. Everyone wants to see, in a sense, the greatest stars hit a home run, see them hit 550-foot home runs. But you know what? They're going to see a lot of that anyway."
Yankees outfielder Bobby Abreu said he can understand why Rodriguez won't take part in the Derby.
Abreu, who hit an all-time Derby-high 41 home runs in 2005, said "it took a long time" to get his normal swing back, and he saw his power numbers decline after the All-Star break. He hit 18 home runs with a .526 slugging percentage before the Derby and six homers with a .411 slugging percentage afterward.
A swing during the Derby is "like golfing," Abreu said. "You get tired. The way that you work in the cage, on the field before the game, is not what you're going to do in the Home Run Derby. In the Home Run Derby, you're just going to hit the ball as far as you can."
Willie Bans is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.