Red Sox All-Star Rafael Devers declines Home Run Derby invitation

FORT MYERS, FLORIDA - MARCH 14: Rafael Devers #11 of the Boston Red Sox hits a solo home run against the Minnesota Twins during the fifth inning of a Grapefruit League spring training game at Hammond Stadium on March 14, 2021 in Fort Myers, Florida. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
FORT MYERS, FLORIDA - MARCH 14: Rafael Devers #11 of the Boston Red Sox hits a solo home run against the Minnesota Twins during the fifth inning of a Grapefruit League spring training game at Hammond Stadium on March 14, 2021 in Fort Myers, Florida. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images) /
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Red Sox star Rafael Devers will pass on the Home Run Derby

The Home Run Derby is an annual staple of All-Star week that draws nearly as much attention as the Midsummer Classic itself. Fans crave the chance to watch the game’s top sluggers smash majestic blasts deep into the stands. This year’s event promises to put on quite a show in Coors Field where the thin Colorado air allows the ball to travel further. The Boston Red Sox have five All-Stars representing the American League this year, including three hitters, but none of them will be participating in the Home Run Derby.

Rafael Devers will be making his first All-Star appearance this year. He was invited to participate in the long-ball contest but declined the opportunity, as manager Alex Cora told WEEI’s Ordway, Merloni and Fauria.

"“He declined, said Cora. “He feels like he’s not a home run hitter in B.P. Great answer by him, I guess.”"

Devers hit a career-high 32 home runs in 2019 and he’s on pace to top that this season with 21 already, which ties him for fifth in the AL entering the day on Friday.

He clearly possesses the raw power to put on an impressive display but it’s in his best interest, and that of his team, to sit this one out. The Derby is essentially a glorified batting practice and if Devers needs to alter his swing from his usual routine in order to compete in this contest then it would risk putting him in a slump coming out of the break.

While many hitters are capable of making the adjustment, there’s a long history of Home Run Derby participants who have struggled in the second half. Whether the energy they expended in the Derby prevented them from getting the break they needed to recharge for the second half or if this contest actually led to a mechanical issue with their swing, it can take a toll.

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The most infamous example is Bobby Abreu when he won the Derby in 2005. Abreu wasn’t known for being an elite power threat for most of his career, reaching 30 homers only twice in 18 seasons. He joined the contest following a strong first half in which he tallied 18 home runs and went on to set a then-record 41 homers in the Derby. Abreu struggled in the second half of that season with a .260 average and only six home runs.

That’s an extreme example but still serves as a cautionary tale for players who aren’t natural home runs hitters altering their swing for the purposes of this exhibition contest.

That’s not to say that it can’t be done. Ichiro Suzuki was known for launching massive home runs during batting practice during his time with the Seattle Mariners but he rarely went deep in games. It varies for different hitters but some are either unable or unwilling to make the necessary adjustments.

If Devers isn’t accustomed to that type of swing during batting practice then he shouldn’t attempt a temporary adjustment he’s not comfortable with.

Earlier this season we saw Devers go through a slump where he couldn’t hit fastballs. We know he’s capable of catching up to elite velocity but he found himself in a funk where his swing was getting too big in anticipation of fastballs and pitchers were able to routinely blow the heater by him. He appears to have regained his form of late and shouldn’t do anything that might spoil his recovery at the plate.

Next. Cron would upgrade a glaring weakness. dark

As much fun as it would have been to root for Devers in the Home Run Derby, his production in the Red Sox lineup as they strive to secure a division title is far more important. We’ll still get to see Devers as a starter in the All-Star Game but he’s content with being a spectator along with the rest of us during the Derby.

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