Cano to participate in the home run derby for the fourth time. He won it in 2011.
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The ball rocketed out of the batting cage, shooting high into the thick Kansas City air. Robinson Cano stood and admired the results of one of his last batting-practice swings Thursday afternoon, holding his black bat aloft with his right hand as the ball settled into the Kauffman Stadium stands.
Cano appears, once again, to be in peak home-run hitting form — just in time for another shot to reclaim the home-run derby crown.
For the fourth time in his career — first as a Mariner — the all-star second baseman has been selected to participate in the MLB home run derby, set to air on ESPN at 5 p.m. Monday from San Diego’s Petco Park. He won the event in 2011 at Arizona.
“It’s something you can enjoy, have fun,” Cano said. “I’ve been there (three) times, and I really enjoyed it and had fun, and I want to go back.”
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He’s the first Mariner selected to the home run derby since Bret Boone in 2003.
Cano’s father, Jose, pitched to him when he won the derby in 2011, when Cano edged Adrian Gonzalez 12-11 in the final round to win. He expects his father to pitch to him again Monday.
“It was something that I always dreamed — to face my dad,” he said.
Cano is also excited that his son will be able to attend the all-star festivities this time.
“That’s one of the reasons I want to do it too. It will be my dad, myself and my son,” he said. “So us three there is something that’s going to be pretty special.”
Cano took a few extra swings during batting practice before Thursday’s series opener against the Royals. He said wasn’t trying to perfect his home-run swing as much as he was working out some minor kinks. In recent games, he said he had been too far out front on breaking pitches, and he’s trying to incorporate more back-hip rotation to offset that.
“Honestly, I’m not practicing my home-run swing,” he said. “I’m just working to be able to use my back hips.”
It was here at Kauffman Stadium in 2012 where Cano attempted, unsuccessfully, to defend his home-run derby title. He didn’t hit a single homer that night. Worse yet, Royals fans booed his every swing; they were upset that Cano, as the American League captain, hadn’t chosen Royals’ star Billy Butler to participate in that home run derby.
Cano, then with the Yankees, remembered playing a double-header in Boston the day before the 2012 home run derby. His flight didn’t land in Kansas City until 5 o’clock the morning of the derby, and he had to be at Kauffman Stadium just a few hours later for a press conference.
“I’m not (making) excuses, but it’s hard when you don’t get to rest,” he said.
In 2013, Cano hit just four home runs and was eliminated in the first round of the derby.
Cano, who hit his 20th home run of the season Wednesday in Houston, will match up in the first round Monday against Miami sluggler Giancarlo Stanton in a tournament-style showdown.
The other participants include ex-Mariner Mark Trumbo of the Orioles; Reds outfielder Adam Duvall; Rockies outfielder Carlos Gonzalez; White Sox third baseman Todd Frazier; Padres first baseman Wil Myers; and Dodgers rookie shortstop Corey Seager, younger bother of Mariners third baseman Kyle Seager.
NOTE: Former Mariner right-hander Chris Young, who was slated to pitch the series finale Sunday, has been pulled out of the Royals rotation, manager Ned Yost announced Thursday. The Royals will instead start either right-hander Dillon Gee or left-hander Brian Flynn. Left-hander Mike Montgomery is scheduled to make his first start of the season for the Mariners on Sunday.