Pujols will compete in 4th Home Run Derby

Pujols will compete in 4th Home Run Derby

DENVER -- Albert Pujols, the starting first baseman for the American League, is ready to take his hacks at the Derby.

Pujols said from Coors Field on Tuesday that he'll be participating in the event for the fourth time. On Wednesday it was announced that he earned the top seed and will face Cubs rookie Kris Bryant in the first round.

"I'm going to do it for the fans and for everybody to enjoy," Pujols said. "I'm just happy to be in it, happy to compete. Hopefully I can put on a decent show like I have in the past."

Pujols' three-run homer

Pujols, with an AL-leading 25 homers, said a week ago that he'd do the Home Run Derby if -- and only if -- he were selected to the All-Star Game. That announcement came Monday, when Pujols was selected as a reserve by his peers and was deemed the starting first baseman because Miguel Cabrera is on the disabled list.

Pujols will join Angels teammate Mike Trout in the AL starting lineup, but Trout will not compete in the Home Run Derby.

Pujols has competed in the Derby three other times. He finished second to former Angels outfielder Garret Anderson at U.S. Cellular Field in Chicago in 2003, tied for third at AT&T Park in San Francisco in '07 and fourth at Busch Stadium in St. Louis in '09. He wants to do it again so that his two sons, 14-year-old A.J. and 5-year-old Ezra, can watch him.

"They want me to do it, so why not?" said Pujols, who will have Angels bench coach Dino Ebel pitch to him. "I'm going to give it one last chance."

Angels manager Mike Scioscia typically prefers that his players not take part in the Derby because he believes the workload is too exhaustive, but he leaves it up to them, regardless. Scioscia said Pujols "will be fine; he understands it."

Pujols, 35, won a batting title in 2003, batted .349/.450/.631 in the second half of '07 and was the National League's Most Valuable Player Award winner in '09. He points to that as evidence that the Derby doesn't mess up his swing, a point others would refute.

"I enjoy it every time I do it because I take it like batting practice," Pujols said. "I know I have to hit the ball out of the ballpark, but to me, it's like regular batting practice -- except you have 50,000 people watching you, and you don't have a cage."

The Derby, slated for July 13 at Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati, has turned into a bracket-style competition this year. Eight players will take part in a single-elimination tournament where each batter has five minutes to hit as many home runs as possible, though extra time can be earned based on distances.

Pujols believes the new format is better "because you won't have to sit around as much as you did in the past."

Pujols is making his 10th trip to the All-Star Game, but his first since 2010. He got there thanks to a monstrous run that has seen him bat .309/.401/.721 with 17 homers and 11 strikeouts over his last 37 games.

"It's the same special feeling that I had when I was 21 years old," Pujols said of being an All-Star. "The fact that you get rewarded in the middle of the season with the All-Star Game is pretty special, especially with the great players in the game right now. It's hard to get in."

Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Gonzo and "The Show", follow him on Twitter @Alden_Gonzalez and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.