TORONTO — American League Home Run Derby captain Jose Bautista plans to speak to Jose Abreu in person over the next four days about next month’s event.
The Toronto Blue Jays slugger has heard reports that the White Sox cleanup man — who Bautista said is on his “short list” — doesn’t have interest in participating in the July 14 event at Target Field in Minneapolis.
But Bautista intends to win the popular, made-for-TV contest. So out of respect for Abreu along with his own competitive nature, Bautista intends to extend the invitation to Abreu while he and the White Sox are guests at the Rogers Centre.
Earlier this week, Abreu said he doesn’t want to compete because he’s concerned with how it would affect his approach.
“I don’t want to pick guys that don’t want to do it and I don’t want to force guys into doing it if they don’t feel like it or they’re uncomfortable or they have health issues,” Bautista said. “I want to win this so I’m not going to pick anybody that’s going to be reserved in any way when they go out and pick up the bat.”
Bautista plans to make that extra effort because he thinks Abreu could help the AL squad win the event. He said he first learned about Abreu during the 2013 World Baseball Classic and has seen what the rookie has done this season for the White Sox. With 23 home runs in 65 games this season, Abreu is off to the fastest start by a rookie in major league history.
“It’s hard to not notice what he’s doing,” Bautista said. “He’s a guy that’s on my short list, but I’ve got to talk to him and see what he says and then we’ll take it from there.”
Bautista won’t take issue with Abreu if he were to decline. His teammate Edwin Encarnacion has said he won’t compete in the Derby no matter what.
Even though his swing and approach have never been bothered by participation in a Derby, Bautista knows not everyone is the same. He just wants to extend the AL’s newest slugger the courtesy of an in-person invitation to gauge where he really stands.
“Of course I’d understand (if he doesn’t want to) but I want to hear it from him,” Bautista said. “I don’t want to use sources for that type of decision because I don’t want to not invite him and he’s upset or disappointed if I didn’t talk to him first.