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Pedro Alvarez had the unenviable task of following Yoenis Cespedes in the Home Run Derby Monday night at Citi Field.
With his father and high school coach watching, and a longtime friend pitching, it didn’t matter.
“I just had a blast out there,” Alvarez said after the Derby, in which Cespedes, an outfielder for the Oakland Athletics, defeated Washington Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper in the championship round. “I was fortunate to be part of that experience.”
Alvarez was eliminated after the first round, in which he hit six home runs. He recorded four outs before hitting his first homer, into the second deck in right field. All went to right or right-center field, and his longest traveled 461 feet.
“I felt pretty good,” Alvarez said. “Obviously it wasn’t enough to advance.”
Alvarez’s pitcher, Class A Bradenton third-base coach Rudy Pena, met the Alvarez family in 2005, when Alvarez was a junior in high school.
“It’s an honor for me,” said Pena, who has never coached Alvarez in the minors despite knowing him for years. “I’m so proud of him.”
Pedro Sr., Alvarez’s father, saw Alvarez’s participation in the Derby as a positive.
“It’s a sign of Pedro getting better every day,” Pedro Sr. said in Spanish, with Pena translating. “He’s going to have a long career.”
Alvarez has 24 home runs at the All-Star break, second in the National League only to the Colorado Rockies’ Carlos Gonzalez. Alvarez took Gonzalez’s spot in the Derby because Gonzalez had a sprained right middle finger.
Alvarez singled out the 2002 Derby in Milwaukee, when Jason Giambi and Sammy Sosa hit 11 and 12 homers in the first round before Giambi went on to win, as one he remembered.
“I used to watch this event every year,” Alvarez said. “I used to love watching it.”
Before the Derby, Alvarez said he wasn’t sure how he would handle it.
“That’s a tricky question because I’ve never done it before,” he said. “I keep getting tips that you should do the same thing that I do in batting practice and that’s what I plan on doing.”
Andrew McCutchen, who competed in the 2012 Derby at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, told Alvarez to take his time.
“Take as many balls as you need,” McCutchen said. “I don’t care if it’s a strike. Get yourself where you feel like you’re ready to swing. Don’t go up there trying to swing at the first pitch.”
As for what McCutchen expected from Alvarez: “A lot of home runs. A lot of long home runs. Those balls are tight, juiced up. Those balls go a long way.”
Harper, his outlandish spikes glittering under the Citi Field lights and his hair spiked high despite the heat, hit eight home runs in the final. His dad, Ron, pitched to him.
All Cespedes had to do was hit nine, and he did, punctuating it with a long home run off the batters’ eye in center. Cespedes finished with 32 total home runs, Harper with 24.
“I felt that I was really into a rhythm and felt like I could put on a show,” Cespedes said in Spanish, with ESPN’s Pedro Gomez translating.
Cespedes hit 17 home runs in the first round. Several of them were line drives into the third deck in left field. Cespedes has 15 homers this season, but is hitting .225 with a .293 on-base percentage and was not selected to the All-Star team.
American League Derby captain Robinson Cano said before the Derby that he asked others to participate, but they weren’t available.
“I said, “Let me choose somebody that’s not in the All-Star [Game] so he can get an opportunity to be here,’ ” Cano said.