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Red Sox hitting coach sympathizes with HR Derby boycotters

Rob Bradford
July 16, 2018 - 10:04 am

The Home Run Derby is not a hitting coach's best friend. 

That we learned way back in 2011.

After the '11 Derby, in which Adrian Gonzalez finished a close second to Robinson Cano, the then-Red Sox first baseman went through a dramatic power outage, hitting just one home run in the 36 games after the All-Star break after totaling 17 in the first half. While Gonzalez insisted the competition had nothing to do with the downturn, his Sox hitting coach Dave Magadan had other ideas.

"When you are spending the offseason trying to rehab from a major surgery labrum of right shoulder in October 2010 like that, you know, I think he got to spring training and continued his rehab in spring training, didn't start hitting until the middle of March, I think it wore on him as the season went on," Magadan said on the Bradfo Sho podcast the following season. "And when he went to the All-Star Game and took all those swings in Home Run Derby, that amount of fatigue on his body and in general, he was different when he came back. I know he doesn't concur with that, doesn't agree with it, but I saw a difference in his swing. As the second-half started to wear on, he started to, I don't want to say complaining, it was bothering him, his shoulder was bothering him."

Now we turn to Monday night's Derby. No Mookie Betts, J.D. Martinez, Mike Trout or Aaron Judge. They all have their reasons, and Red Sox hitting coach Tim Hyers can certainly understand where they are coming from.

"I think the emotional drain that it takes on you, and the anticipation and excitement that goes through your body … You’re having so much fun, but then the day off you’re traveling back to your city. It takes a lot out of you, especially guys for their first time."

Hyers was the assistant hitting coach with the Dodgers in 2017 when Cody Bellinger participated. While Bellinger managed the event fairly well, the process opened the hitting coach's eyes regarding the competition.

"Not speaking for Belli, me personally, all the excitement, the festivities, all the scheduling and preparing for things like that, I think it took a toll for a week or two," Hyers said. "Physically it takes something out of you. It’s not just about being up there swinging for home runs. But you’re getting your swing ready for it and the anxiety and enthusiasm and all the things that go with it, everything off the field when you’re not getting the rest and routine you usually have, have an impact. ... I think when the body gets fatigued and mentally you get fatigued, I think that’s where he kind of wore down a little bit."

Nobody was surprised when any of the home run leaders chose to sit this one out, particularly in the case of last year's champ, Judge, who hit .159 with a .666 OPS throughout the final weeks of July after the All-Star break. Lessons learned.

"He didn’t practice any different, but I know mentally he was doing things. He didn’t get any time off," Hyers said of Bellinger. "Every day he was getting ready for it and he just got out of his routine. Because you can’t stay in your routine. As soon as that last game is over you’re on an airplane going over, waking up early the next day to do all the requirements that you have to do, which is nobody’s fault, but it’s a tough schedule."

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