Pujols, Rios added to Derby field

The St. Louis player’s
homerless streak reached
21 games.

ST. LOUIS (AP) — Albert Pujols has agreed to participate in tonight’s Home Run Derby, even though the St. Louis Cardinals’ star is mired in a career-worst power slump.

Pujols and Alex Rios of the Toronto Blue Jays were the final two paricipants added to the field, Major League Baseball spokesman Pat Courtney said Sunday. The Derby will be held in San Francisco, site of Tuesday’s All-Star game.

Pujols’ homerless streak reached 21 games and a career-worst 71 at-bats when he managed two singles in the Cardinals’ 7-6 loss to the Giants Saturday. He was tied with Chris Duncan for the team lead with 16 homers entering Sunday’s game against San Francisco.

Last was June 14

Pujols’ last homer was off Kansas City’s Jimmy Gobble on June 14. The All-Star first baseman was batting .309 with 51 RBIs going into Sunday’s game.

Throughout the team’s seven-game homestand heading into the break, manager Tony La Russa has criticized talk of Pujols’ power outage, pointing out his run production. He also worried that if the talk kept up, Pujols might start pressing.

“I don’t make anything of Albert. Nothing,” La Russa said. “He’s elevated his average and he’s driving in runs.

“Actually, it’s one of those irritating things that gets brought up.”

Rios is hitting .294 with 17 homers and 53 RBIs. The All-Star outfielder drove in the winning run in the Blue Jays’ 1-0 victory over Cleveland Sunday.

Rios, Minnesota’s Justin Morneau, Vladimir Guerrero of the Angels and Magglio Ordonez of the Tigers are the AL’s representatives for the Derby. Pujols, Philadelphia’s Ryan Howard, Miguel Cabrera of the Marlins and Prince Fielder of the Brewers are the NL contestants.

Previous Derby output

The only other time Pujols participated in the Home Run Derby was at U.S. Cellular Field in Chicago in 2003. He made it through the first round on a tiebreaker before belting 14 homers in the second round to reach the finals, where he lost 9-8 to Garret Anderson of the Los Angeles Angels.

Pujols hit 49 homers last season and has 266 in his career.

The Cardinals’ Jim Edmonds also participated in the Home Run Derby in 2003 after entering the break with 23 homers, and aggravated a shoulder injury that hampered him much of the second half.

La Russa has suggested reducing the number of outs from 10 to five to avoid injuries, noting that while it might cut down on the drama it also would cut fatigue.

“The pressure builds, so you put a lot into it,” La Russa said.

“I think it’s more physically demanding than it is risky for your stroke. It’s an ordeal, actually.”

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