SAN FRANCISCO — The Home Run Derby participants are jogging in from center field as I type. Alex Rios will be swinging against Ryan Howard, Prince Fielder, Justin Morneau, Magglio Ordonez, Vlad Guerrero, Albert Pujols and Matt Holliday.
Earlier today, at a hotel downtown here, they held a press conference with all of the Derby participants. One of the first questions to the group was what the players thought about Barry Bonds not taking part in the event. After a long awkward bit of silence, Rios stepped up and spoke for the group.
"I think it’s a personal decision. So, if he didn’t want to do it, then it’s appropriate."
Props to Rios for ending the silence, even if it was just a general comment. Well, Willie McCovey just passed the bats to the eight sluggers and the kayaks are crowding the cove bearing his name.
RIOS IN ROUND ONE: 5 HR
Rios belted five homers in the first round, matching Holliday’s total for first place. That’s five times the HR total Troy Glaus put up in last year’s Derby. Before the game, Rios said of potentially passing Glaus’ one shot for some clubhouse bragging rights: "Yeah, I’d like to do that. That’d be fun."
RIOS IN ROUND TWO: 12 HR
Rios moved into sole possession of first place by launching 12 more homers, including five in a row with nine outs. He sent a few to center field, but stuck mainly with down the left-field line. Guerrero sent one 503 feet to left-center and nearly hit the huge baseball glove — unreal.
RIOS IN THE FINALS: 2 HR
Rios hit only two homers in the final round against Guerrero, who walked away with the trophy. Rios said he started swinging too hard toward the end, instead of being more patient like he was in the first two rounds. He finished with a Derby-high 19 homers and his 12 in Round 2 were the highest in any round.