tampabay.com

Abreu makes statement of sheer power

By DAMIAN CRISTODERO
Published July 12, 2005


DETROIT - When they talk about Monday night's Home Run Derby, they won't rehash the 11-5 victory of Philadelphia's Bobby Abreu over Detroit's Ivan Rodriguez in the final.

Instead, they will marvel at Abreu's brute force in the first round in which he hit 24 home runs, a record for any round and nine more than Baltimore's Miguel Tejada hit last year in Houston.

Abreu's total of 41 for the three rounds in front of 41,004 at Comerica Park also was a record, beating Tejada's mark by 14.

"This," Abreu said, "is a beautiful night."

Abreu's longest home run, a 517-foot blast that landed on the porch above the right-centerfield stands was third longest all-time behind Sammy Sosa 's 524-foot shot in 2002 at Milwaukee's Miller Park and Frank Thomas ' 519-foot homer in 1994 at Pittsburgh's old Three Rivers Stadium.

"It felt so good I really couldn't believe what I was doing in the first round," said Abreu whose career high is 31 home runs and has 18 this year. "I wanted more and more. It was something amazing. I don't know if I can sleep tonight."

ROGERS SPEAKS: As soon as the doors to the interview room opened, Rangers pitcher Kenny Rogers was swarmed by reporters.

"I figured you guys would be at this table," Rogers said.

Rogers, a former Plant City High standout, spent 45 minutes discussing his decision to attend tonight's All-Star Game despite a 20-game suspension and $50,000 fine for last month's incident in which he pushed a television cameraman and pulled the camera from another.

"I wanted the players who voted for me to know I appreciated it," Rogers said. "I don't want those votes to be wasted. I don't think I'm detracting from anyone here."

Rogers, who is appealing his suspension and may face assault charges, said he regretted his behavior.

"It's my fault and my responsibility to bear," he said. "Whatever was going on I should have been able to rise above it in the right way and I didn't."

Rogers said he will understand if he is booed.

"Everybody has an opinion and has a right to do what they want," he said. "I respect that."

MIGHTY HAVE FALLEN: Danys Baez said he does not believe his native Cuba will do well if it competes in March's World Baseball Classic. The Devil Rays closer said the traditional powerhouse has gone through too many changes.

"I know all the big players in Cuba are retired already," said Baez, who defected from Cuba in August 1999. "I know that team is not going to be that good."

Baez said the top teams will be the Dominican Republic, United States, Puerto Rico and Venezuela.

LEADOFF CHOICE: Orioles second baseman Brian Roberts leads the AL with a .345 average and is second with a .416 on-base percentage. Even so, AL and Red Sox manager Terry Francona chose Boston centerfielder Johnny Damon to bat leadoff.

"I acknowledge Brian Roberts is having an MVP-type season," Francona said. "I wanted him to understand this was not a slap in the face but something I thought needed to be done, not only because of what Johnny has done this year but for his career."

Roberts said he has no problems with Francona.

"For him to feel he needed to talk to me goes beyond what I felt he should have done," he said. "That's (Damon's) manager. That's what he should have done."

PITCHING CHOICE: St. Louis' Chris Carpenter (13-4) got the call as NL starter over Florida's Dontrelle Willis (13-4) and Houston's Roger Clemens (a majors-best 1.48 ERA).

"It was a tough decision," NL and Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said. "Honestly, one edge that we hope to play is that (Florida's) Paul Lo Duca will catch part of the game. He knows Dontrelle and we wanted to use that, so we'll use Dontrelle somewhere around the middle."

CHANGE OF PLANS: Astros third baseman Morgan Ensberg replaced St. Louis' Scott Rolen , who is resting a sore shoulder. Ensberg is batting .290 with 24 home runs and 65 RBIs. Playing for Houston, he also flies under the radar.

"We were terrible, terrible in April, and winning teams get the publicity," he said. "But more so, we have Rocket (Clemens), Brad Lidge , Roy Oswalt , (Jeff) Bagwell , (Craig) Biggio . Morgan Ensberg is a distinct seventh or eighth down this line of guys."

BOGUS REWARD: La Russa doesn't believe rewarding home-field advantage in the World Series through All-Star competition is all it's cracked up to be. "I think Terry and I believe there's probably a better way to arrive at who gets home field, to do it during the season rather than in the All-Star Game," he said.

La Russa allowed that the Cardinals, swept last season by the Red Sox in the World Series, would have done better had the NL won the All-Star Game.

"I think if we started the series in St. Louis, maybe we would have lost in five," he said.

ETC.: Clemens and Texas' Alfonso Soriano , in Panama for the birth of his third child, had excused absences from the media session.