BALTIMORE — Paul Konerko believes Jose Abreu belongs in the All-Star Game, and he’d love to see his teammate appear in the Home Run Derby next month.
Konerko is the only active White Sox player to appear in the Home Run Derby, which is scheduled for July 14 at Target Field in Minneapolis. The veteran has fond memories of when he participated in 2002 at Miller Park and hit 12 home runs, finishing third behind Jason Giambi and Sammy Sosa. The last White Sox player to appear in the Derby was Jermaine Dye in 2006.
Abreu said late Tuesday he has been asked to but would prefer not to participate because he thinks it could affect his mental approach.
But Konerko thinks Abreu is too good of a hitter to get untracked by the event and believes he would enjoy it.
“First of all, he should be in the game,” Konerko said. “Second of all, he should be in (the Derby). I would say the only reason why you wouldn’t is if you feel like you have something nagging where you’re going to expose yourself to getting hurt. He’s too good of a hitter where 20 minutes of doing something would ruin what he has got going on.”
Abreu said Wednesday his Derby participation isn’t a priority for now.
He’s more focused on helping the White Sox get back to being a more competitive team. But he also has a fair amount of experience in similar events and said trying to hit home runs isn’t natural for him.
Abreu is third in the majors with 22 home runs this spring and is on a similar pace to the best rookie home-run hitters in major league history.
“It has to do with the mental approach,” Abreu said through team’s manager of cultural development, Lino Diaz. “I change my whole mental approach when I go there. I have had experiences in Cuba, five different Home Run Derbys. It messes with my mind. I never go to the plate trying to hit home runs. That’s something I’m blessed with and happens. I never go trying to hit home runs. When I go to these things it has not been beneficial to me afterwards.”
Abreu has said he would participate in the event if he has to. Konerko can understand his teammate’s reservations but thinks Abreu would enjoy getting the opportunity to play in front of 40,000 spectators. And, Konerko said, you never know if you’ll get another opportunity.
“But it’s really a personal thing,” Konerko said. “It would be fun to see. He has a lot of power, and the balls tend to jump a little more in those events. I’d like to see where he can hit some of them in that stadium.”
“It depends on the person. I don’t think it really affects your swing. It’s definitely physically grueling, especially if you move on. You take a lot of hard swings. I was sore the next day, and it was nothing I couldn’t get over in a couple of days. I think if you’re given the opportunity you might as well take a shot at it.”
“It was fun. I only got asked once to do it, I did it and it was a good time.”