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Derby picks up star power

Derby picks up star power in last year's MVPs

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HOUSTON -- The State Farm Home Run Derby has added a pair of Most Valuable Players.

The two reigning MVPs, Minnesota's Justin Morneau and Philadelphia's Ryan Howard, confirmed Monday they would participate in next Monday's event at San Francisco's AT&T Park. The two join Milwaukee's Prince Fielder in the field and give the event three left-handed hitting sluggers, including last year's champion, Howard.

Two other All-Star sluggers, Miguel Cabrera of Florida and Carlos Lee of Houston, said Monday they haven't been asked.

Though he's not on the All-Star team, Howard accepted an invitation to return to defend his Derby crown. He hit 24 home runs to win last year's contest at PNC Park in Pittsburgh.

"It was fun last year and an honor to be invited back, whether I'm on the team or not," said Howard, who is hoping Cincinnati's Ken Griffey Jr. and San Francisco's Barry Bonds, two players he grew up admiring, will also join the field.

"Potentially having those guys in the Derby, it would be ridiculous," Howard said. "It will be a power-packed field. I'm going to have fun, and whatever happens, happens."

Phillies manager Charlie Manuel likes Howard's chances.

"He's the reigning champ," he said. "If you watch him take batting practice, I'd say he stands a good chance of winning the thing."

Morneau confirmed he had accepted an invitation to take part.

"To me, it's almost as cool as the game," Morneau said. "I'd love to be a part of it."

Through 75 games this season, Morneau has hit 20 home runs, ranking him second in the American League behind the Yankees' Alex Rodriguez, who has 28. Last season, Morneau became the first Twins player since 1987 to hit 30 or more home runs in a season, belting 34 long balls.

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

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"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."

Cabrera wants to compete in the Home Run Derby. Apparently, Major League Baseball has mutual interest, but the Marlins slugger and the league haven't connected.

On Monday he received a phone call from the league office regarding the Home Run Derby. However, he missed the call, and his return phone call went unanswered.

"If they ask me, I'll do it," Cabrera said.

On Sunday, Cabrera was selected to his fourth straight All-Star Game. The lone Marlins representative competed last year. He finished third in the competition won by Howard.

Lee entered Monday night's game against Philadelphia hitting .293 with 15 homers and National League-leading 68 runs batted in.

Lee hasn't been asked to participate but would consider it if he were.

"I'd probably think seriously about it," Lee said.

While some players do not like to participate because of the theory it alters their swing, Lee dismissed that as a factor.

"In my case, it's got nothing to do with it," he said.

The 78th Major League Baseball All-Star Game will be televised nationally by FOX Sports, in Canada by Rogers Sportsnet and Sportsnet HD and televised around the world by Major League Baseball International, with pregame ceremonies beginning at 8 p.m. ET. ESPN Radio will provide exclusive national radio coverage, while MLB.com will provide extensive online coverage. XM will provide satellite radio play-by-play coverage of the XM All-Star Futures Game.

Jim Molony 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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