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Morneau excited for first Derby

Morneau excited for first Derby

SAN FRANCISCO -- History was the last thing on Justin Monreau's mind when he became the first Twins player since Tony Oliva in 1973 to hit three home runs in a game.

No, instead Morneau was concerned about whether he had used up all of his homers before taking part in his first Home Run Derby contest.

"To me, it's almost as cool as the game, and you just don't want to put up a zero," Morneau said with a laugh. "But maybe I'm just getting warmed up."

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After adding another home run to his total in the final game of the first half, Morneau will get the chance to see if he's right on Monday night when he takes part in the State Farm Home Run Derby at AT&T Park in San Francisco.

Joining Morneau in this year's eight-player Derby will be the Brewers' Prince Fielder, the Phillies' Ryan Howard, the Tigers' Magglio Ordonez, the Angels' Vladimir Guerrero, the Cardinals' Albert Pujols and the Blue Jays' Alex Rios. One competitor is still to be named.

The Twins first baseman is on pace for his first ever 40-plus home run season. His three dinger game on Friday night, along with a solo homer Morneau hit on Sunday, helped him to finish the first half with 24 homers. It's the most he's ever hit before break.

In '06, Morneau belted 34 homers, with 23 coming in the first half, en route to earning the AL Most Valuable Player Award.

Being that it's Morneau's first All-Star Game, it will be his first appearance in the Derby. But that doesn't mean that the first baseman has no experience in such events.

"I've been a part of them since I was little," Morneau said. "I've been a part of Little League home run derbies and then some in high school and even in the Minor Leagues a few times."

This event will undoubtedly be different for Morneau than those others, considering not only the company he'll share in the event, but those that will be watching his performance on the field. Among all of those All-Stars will be his teammates Torii Hunter and Johan Santana who were also selected to the American League All-Star roster.

Having the support of his teammates there will be a help to Morneau, but he knows it's not the easiest environment to walk into and perform.

"I'm sure I'm going to be nervous, but you get one or two out of the way early and you forget about all that stuff," Morneau said. "Hopefully that's the way it goes."

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One of Morneau's biggest concerns appears to be settled after he chose Twins manager Ron Gardenhire to pitch to him in the event. After his first choice, Larry Walker, a fellow Canadian, was unable to do it, Morneau asked Gardenhire. The first baseman said it made sense because Gardenhire was already scheduled to be on hand for the event as a coach on skipper Jim Leyland's AL staff.

Although Gardenhire said earlier in the week that he didn't think he was the ideal candidate for the job considering the movement on his pitches, the skipper said he's up for the job.

"He said he'd like me to throw it, and that's fine unless we can get out there and find someone who throws it straighter," Gardenhire said. "I'll throw it for him if that's what he wants. I'll get out there and see if anybody throws straighter than I do, and then maybe we'll hire him."

That movement didn't seem to be much of a concern on Sunday, when Morneau tested out his new "pitcher" during batting practice before Sunday's game against the White Sox.

"I hit off him today and it was all right," Morneau said. "And I'm comfortable with him."

Kelly Thesier 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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