MINNEAPOLIS The Los Angeles Dodgers ought to consider a new organizational strategy for the Home Run Derby.
Just say no.
The Dodgers' derby futility continued Monday, when Yasiel Puig was shut out. For all the anticipation over the degree of flourish in a derby bat flip, zero home runs meant zero bat flips.
Puig said he was not embarrassed by failing to hit even a single home run.
"No, not at all," he said. "It's my first All-Star game. I came here to have fun."
So much so, he said, that he did not even line up a pitcher until Monday. He had asked Rob Flippo, the Dodgers' batting practice pitcher, but he said Flippo declined because of a family obligation. On Monday, Puig secured Jose Cano, the father of Seattle Mariners infielder Robinson Cano, as his pitcher.
The legend of Puig precedes him. As the public address announcer introduced the participants, he got the loudest ovation of any player besides Brian Dozier, who plays for the Minnesota Twins, and Justin Morneau, who used to do so.
And then the derby started. When players make an out at the derby, that usually means they hit a fly ball, perhaps a line drive, sometimes a foul ball.
Puig's first swing - and thus his first out - was a comebacker.
He missed on his next six swings too, and he was done. He was the only one of the 10 participants not to hit at least one home run.
"It's my first Home Run Derby. It's my first All-Star game," he said. "I was a little nervous. It was a little nerve-racking."
Oakland Athletics outfielder Yoenis Cespedes, his Cuban countryman, won the derby for the second consecutive year.
"He picks good pitches," Puig said. "He hits with a lot of power. He's a great home run hitter."
Puig is not, at least according to Cespedes. After Cespedes won last year, he said he believed he could beat Puig in the derby.
"This is not the type of competition he would be able to excel at," Cespedes said then. "He's not really a home run hitter, so I believe I would win."
As a scouting report, dead on. Cespedes hit 30 home runs Monday, Puig none.
That is not new for the Dodgers in the derby. Mike Piazza entered twice, and he got shut out twice. In seven shots in the derby, a Dodgers player has hit more than two home runs only once - Hee-Seop Choi, with five.
Dodgers manager Don Mattingly had said Puig would improve upon Choi's modest franchise record.
"I'm going to predict he's going to break that," Mattingly said last week. "He'll knock that door down."
Puig has 12 home runs this season, the fewest of any derby entrant. He has one home run in his last 161 at-bats, dating to May 28.
He was in high spirits after he was eliminated in the first round Monday, sticking around on the field to watch the remaining hours of the derby and laughing and shouting with another fellow Cuban - Cincinnati Reds closer Aroldis Chapman - in the National League clubhouse after the derby.
Puig said he would love to try the derby again, if he is invited.
"Maybe next time I'll do better," he said.
And he laughed at the reporter who told him media members thought Puig might win.
"You guys thought wrong," Puig said.
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