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Bautista not counting out Home Run Derby

Bautista not counting out Home Run Derby

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TORONTO -- Shaun Marcum strolled through the Blue Jays' clubhouse last month, bat in hand, heading to the cage for one of the hitting sessions held for the club's pitchers during the Interleague Play slate.

Marcum had his own bats, but he decided instead to raid the stash belonging to Toronto outfielder Jose Bautista. Asked why he was not using the lumber ordered for him, Marcum shrugged and smiled.

"It seems like Bautista's got some homers in his," Marcum replied.

Home runs are a big part of why Bautista found his way onto the American League All-Star team, which was revealed on Sunday. His breakout showing in the first half for Toronto currently has him atop Major League Baseball's home run leaderboard, leaving just one question for Bautista to answer.

Would he be willing to slug it out in the State Farm Home Run Derby?

"I've got mixed feelings about it so far," Bautista said on Sunday.

Bautista has heard the stories.

There was Bobby Abreu in 2005.

And then Alex Rios in 2007.

Beyond just those two, there are plenty of other examples of players who took to the stage and put on a powerful show -- only to see their power sapped in the second half of the season. Sometimes longer. Of course, there are also many cases where players took part in the Derby without any post-hacking symptoms.

That is why Bautista is not ruling anything out right now.

"It's something you've got to consider if they do contact me about it," Bautista said. "I've heard a couple of guys have gotten messed up after they've been in it. I've been in a couple in the Minor Leagues since I've played and I've never had problems.

"Plus, there'd be a lot of pressure on you on the big stage."

In 2005, Abreu took the Home Run Derby crown by launching 41 long balls in a jaw-dropping display at spacious Comerica Park in Detroit. Then, Abreu hit just six homers over the final 73 games of the season and managed to clear the fence merely 15 times the following season.

In 2007, former Blue Jays outfielder Alex Rios finished second in the contest, but belted a Derby-high 19 home runs at AT&T Park in San Francisco. Rios then hit just seven homers over the last 75 games of the year for Toronto and followed that up with only 17 shots for the Jays in '08.

To a lesser extent, Rangers slugger Josh Hamilton went through a similar experience after his memorable performance at the 2008 Derby. Hamilton turned the old Yankee Stadium into his personal playground, smacking 35 home runs, including 28 in the first round. Hamilton then saw his power numbers decline in the second half.

It is impossible to know how much of a role, if any, the Derby played in any of those cases.

Players are often superstitious, though, and they are certainly creatures of habit.

Bautista -- a first-time All-Star -- has found his success this season through timing and consistency with his swing. Given how he treats batting practice prior to each game, he knows he would have to alter his swing mechanics in a home run-hitting contest. That is causing him some hesitation.

"I'm not really a home run hitter during BP," Bautista explained. "I hit more line drives than anything. I'd have to make an adjustment with my swing to get the ball up in the air more."

Through 82 games for the Blue Jays, Bautista had launched a Major League-leading 21 home runs, surpassing his previous career best of 16 in 2006 with the Pirates. Dating back to Sept. 7 of last season, Bautista has belted 31 homers in 382 at-bats, or one per 12.3 at-bats on average.

Before Sept. 7, 2009? Bautista had just 49 homers in his previous 1,656 at-bats.

"It seems like whenever he hits the ball, it goes out of the park," said catcher John Buck, who joins center fielder Vernon Wells and Bautista as the Blue Jays' All-Star representatives this season. "He's having a great year."

Bautista might not want to mess with what is working.

There is also the matter of the venue.

This year's Midsummer Classic is being held at Angel Stadium in Anaheim -- not the most hitter-friendly park in the big leagues.

"If it was in Philadelphia, I'd definitely do it," Bautista said with a laugh.

If Bautista is asked to take part in the Derby, though, he might still consider giving it a shot.

"I've thought about it," Bautista said. "We'll see."

Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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