Howard takes HR Derby

Rogers' All-Star experience much improved over '05's

Guillen OK with Ramirez's absence

Notebook

All-star Game

July 11, 2006|By DAN CONNOLLY | DAN CONNOLLY,SUN REPORTER

PITTSBURGH -- Two of the National League's brightest young stars ended up facing off in baseball's most contrived event last night at PNC Park.

And the big guy knocked off the littler guy while sending one fan home with a cool prize.

Philadelphia Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard out-slugged New York Mets third baseman David Wright 5-4 to win this year's Home Run Derby.

Howard, the Phillies' 6-foot-4, 252-pound slugger, needed just 10 swings to hit five homers for his first title. Three of the shots were rather impressive.

His first homer of the final round cleared the batter's eye wall in center field. His third bounced into the river over the right-field stands. And his fifth hit the "Hit it Here" sign in right field, enabling a fan in Section 220 to receive 500 free airline flights from MasterCard.

Not bad for a 26-year-old participating in his first All-Star Game.

Wright, 23, 6 feet, 200 pounds, was the leader through two rounds with 18 homers. He hit four in 14 swings in the finale.

Orioles shortstop Miguel Tejada, who won in 2004, was eliminated in the first round after hitting three homers in 13 swings.

Change for Rogers

Last year at this time, left-hander Kenny Rogers was about to step on the All-Star field in Detroit wondering how the crowd would react to him after his suspension for shoving two cameramen in Texas.

This year, Rogers, representing the Detroit Tigers, is the American League's starting pitcher. Talk about different experiences.

"I would be lying if I said it wasn't hard," Rogers said of the 2005 game, in which he was booed during introductions and when he pitched. "I think I grew up through that a little bit and learned from it and tried to make myself a little bit better.

"This year, I am hoping for a more enjoyable time."

Rogers (11-3, 3.85 ERA) faces Los Angeles Dodgers right-hander Brad Penny (10-2, 2.91 ERA) tonight.

No Ramirez

Boston Red Sox left fielder Manny Ramirez was voted as an American League starter by the fans, but chose not to participate in the All-Star Game because of a sore knee. Yet that didn't stop him from playing all 19 innings in Sunday's marathon game against the Chicago White Sox.

White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen, who is in charge of the AL squad, said he was OK with Ramirez skipping tonight's game but playing so much Sunday against the White Sox because, Guillen joked, "he went 0-for-6 [actually, 1-for-8]."

White Sox first baseman Paul Konerko said he has no problem with Ramirez's decision because "every guy is different." But he added, "for myself, this is the fans' game. If they voted you in I think you have an obligation to go."

No. 2 for Ryan

Toronto Blue Jays closer B.J. Ryan is attending his second consecutive All-Star Game. Last year, he made his first while with the Orioles. He said he is taking no enjoyment in his former team's rough season.

"You don't want to wish anything bad on anybody," Ryan said. "They've got guys over there who are great baseball players and you know they are better than that."

He reiterated that last year was a tough season for everyone in Baltimore. And he expressed surprise that his former bullpen mate, Jason Grimsley, is being investigated by the federal government for alleged steroid and human growth hormone use.

"I played with Jason for a while and I like him. I know his wife and his family. You hate to see him get caught up in that," Ryan said. "It's not good for anybody. It's not good for baseball. It's not good for the team. It's not good for Jason."

Juiced baseballs?

Lance Berkman of the Houston Astros said he thinks the baseballs that Major League Baseball used in the past for its Home Run Derby might have been, let's say, artificially enhanced.

"I don't think that Major League Baseball will want me to say this, but I think the balls we use during the Home Run Derby are different than the ones we use during the regular season," Berkman said. "The balls I hit in 2004? I've never hit the ball like that during the regular season. I think they might have a little different center."

Berkman leaves room for a simpler theory, too.

"Of course, it also could be that I swing four or five times as hard in the Home Run Derby than I would in regular batting practice," he said.

More changes

Two more players were added to the rosters yesterday. National League manager Phil Garner named St. Louis Cardinals shortstop David Eckstein to replace the New York Mets' Jose Reyes (injured left pinky finger). The Atlanta Braves' Edgar Renteria, formerly a reserve, will now be the NL starting shortstop in place of Reyes.

Also, Guillen selected Minnesota Twins rookie left-hander Francisco Liriano to replace Chicago pitcher Jose Contreras, who is being rested after pitching six innings on Sunday. dan.connolly@baltsun.com

Home Run Derby

First round

Total Long

David Wright, N.Y. Mets 16 476

David Ortiz, Boston 10 488

Miguel Cabrera, Florida 9 471

Ryan Howard, Philadelphia 8 471

Jermaine Dye, Chi. White Sox 7 476

Miguel Tejada, Orioles 3 461

Lance Berkman, Houston 3 456

Troy Glaus, Toronto 1 450

Second round

2R Total Long

Howard 10 18 461

Wright 2 18 438

Cabrera 6 15 455

Ortiz 3 13 472

Finals

Total Long

Howard 5 463

Wright 4 453

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