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Berkman set to return to Derby

Berkman set to return to Derby

Houston's Lance Berkman agreed Wednesday to participate in the CENTURY 21 Home Run Derby on ESPN, leaving only two spots open for the July 10 event at PNC Park in Pittsburgh.

Berkman is the sixth player to confirm participation in the Derby, joining David Wright of the New York Mets, Ryan Howard of Philadelphia, David Ortiz of Boston, Troy Glaus of Toronto and Jermaine Dye of the Chicago White Sox. Milwaukee's Carlos Lee withdrew his name from consideration on Monday because of a sore right hand.

Berkman has participated in two Home Run Derbys: 2002 in Milwaukee and 2004 in Houston. He hit only one home run at Miller Park in Milwaukee but finished as runner-up to Miguel Tejada of Baltimore at Minute Maid Park two years ago. Tejada hit 27 homers overall while Berkman finished with 21. In the final round, Tejada edged Berkman, 5-4.

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The switch-hitter will likely bat right-handed, because he does not want to throw off his timing of his left-handed swing, which was a problem for him in 2002. In the 2004 Derby, Berkman batted right-handed.

St. Louis slugger Albert Pujols has been invited but Pujols hasn't made up his mind whether he will compete. Colorado's Matt Holliday is among the other NL options.

Berkman and the other participants will also represent eight lucky fans who will have a chance to win $250,000 toward the purchase of a home during the 2006 Major League Baseball All-Star Week.

For the eighth consecutive year, CENTURY 21 Real Estate LLC -- the official real estate organization of Major League Baseball -- has hosted the CENTURY 21 Home Run Derby All-Star Sweepstakes in conjunction with the Derby.

Randomly selected from entries received through www.century21.com, www.century21espanol.com, in-office displays and mail-in entry forms, the finalists will be matched with a 2006 Major League Baseball player competing in the Home Run Derby on Monday at 8 p.m. ET at PNC Park in Pittsburgh. The finalist paired with the Major League Baseball player who captures the Derby title will win the grand prize.

In addition to the opportunity to win $250,000 toward the purchase of a home, the sweepstakes finalists have been awarded a trip for two to 2006 Major League Baseball All-Star Week, July 7-11, courtesy of Century 21. Last year, Edwin Molina of Long Pond, Pa., won the $250,000 sweepstakes grand prize when Philadelphia Phillies outfielder Bobby Abreu launched a Derby-record 41 home runs.

The Derby will be televised nationally by ESPN and ESPN Deportes beginning at 8 p.m. ET on Monday. ESPN Radio will provide exclusive national radio coverage, while MLB.com will provide extensive online coverage and MLB.com Radio will provide exclusive play-by-play coverage of the game on the Internet.

Jim Molony is a writer for MLB.com. MLB.com reporters contributed to this report. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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