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Howard excited about Home Run Derby

Howard excited about Home Run Derby

PHILADELPHIA -- Ryan Howard is no stranger to the Home Run Derby.

In 2004, when he hit 37 home runs for Double-A Reading, the Phillies' second-year slugger went homerless in the Eastern League Home Run Derby.

His appearance in next Monday's CENTURY 21 Home Run Derby as part of the 77th All-Star Game festivities in Pittsburgh, however, will be a little different.

"I've been there," Howard said. "This one's going to be a little bit more hyped up."

Howard, who leads the Majors with 28 home runs entering Tuesday's games, will be part of a four-man National League team that includes Mets third baseman David Wright as its only other confirmed participant.

The American League squad will likely feature Boston's David Ortiz, Toronto's Troy Glaus and Jermaine Dye of the White Sox.

With the pitching of Phillies bullpen coach Ramon Henderson, who will serve them up for Howard, teammate Bobby Abreu won the competition last year, setting records for a single round (24) and his final total (41).

"I'm going to talk to him and try to get some trade secrets -- some of the inside stuff," Howard said. "I'm going to talk to Ramon and try to work on some strategy."

After Abreu won last year's competition, he saw a significant drop in his power. The right fielder had 18 homers before the All-Star break and just six after.

Given Abreu's decrease in power, manager Charlie Manuel was asked if he was worried about the Derby affecting Howard's swing after the break.

"No, as long as Howard stays within himself and stays in the middle of the field with the ball," Manuel said. "If he starts hooking a lot of balls down the line, I might get a little concerned about him."

As little worry as his manager has shown, Howard is even more carefree heading into the nationally televised event.

"I look at it as fun, and everybody there is looking at it as fun," Howard said. "So I'm not going to try to make anything out of it or put on extra pressure."

Zachary Levine is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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