MINNEAPOLIS -- Major League Baseball’s leading home run hitter was planning to be a spectator for the Home Run Derby on Monday night at Target Field, still without any regrets about his decision not to participate in the contest.
White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu said he was still fine with his decision to bypass the showcase, which he’d initially passed up out of fear that it would alter his swing mechanics during his dynamic first season in the majors. Abreu’s 29 homers are the most in the majors, and the 27-year-old has a chance to break Mark McGwire’s rookie record of 49 homers.
Former White Sox first baseman Frank Thomas criticized Abreu’s decision to skip the derby in an interview with ESPN Chicago on Sunday, but Abreu -- who participated in five homer-hitting contests in his native Cuba -- didn’t sound like he’d be missing much.
“I’ve always felt (that) what I do, I need to do with a goal and objective,” Abreu said through an interpreter. “I’ve done the Home Run Derby five times in Cuba. I never won it. I always said, when I was asked about it, I wasn’t going to participate. If given the opportunity in the future, maybe I’ll consider it, but no, I don’t have any regrets about that.”
Abreu, who signed a six-year, $68 million contract with the White Sox last winter, posted a .630 slugging percentage in the first half, which also leads the majors. He’s hitting .292, and is among the favorites for American League Rookie of the Year honors. Abreu said he wasn’t aware of McGwire’s rookie homer record -- or that he was only four homers behind where McGwire stood at the All-Star break as a rookie -- but admitted he’s even been surprised by his production in the majors so far.
“What I’ve done in the first half has surpassed what I (expected),” Abreu said. “I hoped to have a good season and play well for the White Sox, but I’ve been blessed in the first half. That really has been a gift.”