Cespedes unsure about defending Derby crown

Cespedes unsure about defending Derby crown

CINCINNATI -- Yoenis Cespedes has won the last two All-Star Home Run Derby titles. He's not sure yet whether he's going to try to win a third.

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"Still thinking about it," Cespedes said Thursday through a translator, "but it'll depend on making the All-Star Game."

He won the 2013 title without being part of the American League All-Star team. He was a first-time All-Star at last year's event in Minnesota, and he became a two-time Home Run Derby champion, joining Ken Griffey Jr. as the only players to successfully defend their crowns.

For now, though, he doesn't seem inclined to take his swings in the Derby if he's not an All-Star. And like many AL position players, his chances are being clouded by the success of the Royals in the vote count.

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Cespedes stood sixth among AL outfielders as of the most recent ballot results earlier this week, more than 2.4 million votes behind Alex Gordon for the third and final starting spot. Among those ahead of him are Alex Rios, who missed most of the first two months while on the disabled list, and four-time All-Star Adam Jones.

Cespedes is making a push for consideration with a torrid June, batting .370 (20-for-54) for the month with two home runs and seven RBIs. Even if it doesn't win him enough fan votes to close the gap, it could give him more pull on the player ballot, which decides the bulk of the reserves.

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It's important to him.

"It's much better that you actually make the All-Star team when you participate in the Home Run Derby," Cespedes said, "because the overall experience is better when you are part of the team."

Cespedes has not hit well at Great American Ball Park, including an 0-for-6 game on Wednesday night. He hits better, of course, in the Derby format, even if his approach isn't all that complicated.

"No strategy," he said, "just find a good pitch and put a good swing on it."

Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.