Japanese two-way sensation Shohei Ohtani became the first player to announce he will compete in the All-Star Home Run Derby at Denver’s Coors Field on July 12.
The Los Angeles Angels star will be the first Japanese-born player in the derby, held the night before the All-Star Game.
“I always wanted to see a Japanese player participate in the derby and it happens to be me, so it’s really exciting for me,” he said through a translator on Friday.
Some players have gone into slumps after hitting in the derby, finding their swings get out of whack.
“Obviously, I’ve never experienced this, so I can’t really tell you how it’s going to effect me in the second half of the season, so I’m just going to just do it and see how it goes,” he said.
Ohtani said Angels bullpen catcher Jason Brown will pitch to him. The 26-year-old outfielder, designated hitter, and pitcher hit his 20th and 21st home runs on Friday night, one behind major league leaders Fernando Tatis Jr. of San Diego and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. of Toronto. Ohtani is hitting .273 with 50 RBIs, and he is 3-1 with a 2.70 ERA in 10 starts, which matches his total during his AL Rookie of the Year campaign.
Ohtani won Japan’s home run derby in 2016, when he also was MVP of the second of Japan’s two All-Star Games. He ranked fifth in average home run distance at 419 feet, entering Friday’s play, according to the league, trailing the White Sox’ Yermín Mercedes (439), Kansas City’s Jorge Soler (427), Miami’s Corey Dickerson (426), and Tatis Jr. (421).
One player who won’t be joining him: New York’s Aaron Judge. The 2017 champion as a rookie said he had “no interest right now unless the All-Star Game is back in New York soon.”
Vaccination pace significantly slowed
No additional teams in the past week joined the 22 already past the 85 percent coronavirus vaccination threshold for players and other on-field personnel.
Major League Baseball and the players’ association said 85.3 percent of tier 1 and 2 tier individuals had been fully vaccinated and 86.5 percent had received at least one dose. Previous weekly announcements included just tier 1, and MLB said on June 11 that 83.5 percent had been fully vaccinated and 85.1 percent had been partially.
Tier 1 includes players, managers, coaches, team physicians, athletic trainers, and strength and conditioning staff. Tier 2 includes ownership, front office staff, travel staff, head groundskeepers, and ballpark operations staff. Once a team reaches 85 percent vaccinations among tiers 1 and 2, it has the option to apply loosened protocols to tier 2.
Among changes to protocols made Wednesday, all fully vaccinated players and staff can stop wearing masks in dugouts, bullpens, and clubhouses.
Pirates build 10-run lead, and need every one against Cleveland
Gregory Polanco hit a two-run homer in a five-run first inning and Pittsburgh nearly squandered a 10-run lead in the late innings before hanging on to beat the Cleveland, 11-10, snapping a 10-game losing streak. Ke’Bryan Hayes had a three-run double that highlighted a five-run outburst in the sixth inning, staking the Pirates to an 11-1 lead. Cleveland rallied by scoring six runs in the seventh inning and three runs in the eighth, but Richard Rodriguez pitched a scoreless ninth inning, striking out rookie slugger Bobby Bradley with runners on second and third to end the game. Indians three-time Silver Slugger-winning third baseman Jose Ramirez left the game after being hit on the left foot by a pitch in the eighth inning . . . Six years after New York took him in the first round of the amateur draft, James Kaprielian beat the Yankees, 5-3, by pitching three-hit ball over 5⅔ innings as Oakland extended its winning streak to seven. Tony Kemp hit a three-run homer in the sixth on a hanging slider from Wandy Peralta (1-1), overcoming a 3-2 deficit with the first home run by a left-handed hitter this year off the southpaw reliever. Kaprielian, a 27-year-old right-hander, was taken 16th overall by the Yankees out of UCLA in 2015 and signed for a $2.65 million bonus, but his career was slowed by Tommy John surgery on April 13, 2017. He was traded to Oakland that July 31 in the deal that brought pitcher Sonny Gray to New York . . . Yan Gomes hit a game-ending single in the ninth inning, Erick Fedde extended his scoreless streak to 20 innings, and Washington two-hit the first-place New York Mets to win, 1-0. Juan Soto opened the ninth with a walk and moved to third on Ryan Zimmerman’s single to right. Gomes then singled to left to beat Edwin Díaz (1-2) . . . Ozzie Albies and William Contreras homered off Carlos Martínez in a four-run second inning, Max Fried allowed two hits in seven innings, and host Atlanta beat St. Louis, 9-1, for just its third win in nine games. The Cardinals were outhit, 11-3, and have mustered one run the last two nights at Truist Park. Third baseman Nolan Arenado is 0 for his last 20 . . . Baltimore has lost 19 in a row on the road, but got two home runs from Cedric Mullins in a 7-1 win over Toronto at Camden Yards to snap an eight-game losing streak overall. He had three hits, passing Guerrero Jr. for the American League hits lead. Thomas Eshelman pitched effectively into the fifth inning, called up from the minors to make this start when the Orioles put Bruce Zimmermann on the injured list . . . Milwaukee reinstated second baseman Kolten Wong was reinstated from the 10-day injured list following a left oblique strain, and batted him leadoff at Colorado. The team also selected the contract of right-handed pitcher Zack Godley, who pitched eight times for the Red Sox last season, from their Triple-A affiliate in Nashville.