NEW YORK (AP) — The lineup is set for the Home Run Derby, and here come the Baby Bombers.
Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez, the young sluggers who lead the New York Yankees’ offense, will participate in the long ball contest July 10 during All-Star festivities in Miami.
Judge, a rookie who homered in his first major league at-bat last August, tops the majors with 27 home runs. He entered Monday leading the American League with a .330 batting average and 62 RBIs.
“I’m excited,” he said. “We’ve got a good group of guys going. Getting a chance to go up against Gary is going to be fun. So I think we’re both looking forward to that.”
The 24-year-old Sanchez is hitting .294 with 13 homers and 40 RBIs despite missing nearly a month with a strained biceps. He belted 20 home runs in 53 games as a rookie last season.
“I think it’s going to be special,” Sanchez said through a translator. “I’m pretty sure the fans are going to enjoy it. I’m pretty sure that the excitement will be through the roof, and if I don’t win I want Judge to win.”
New York made the announcement Monday on Twitter before its game against Toronto.
Yankees All-Star reliever Dellin Betances said he likes to shag flies when Judge and Sanchez take batting practice so he can watch them hit. New York pitcher Luis Severino joked that there are rarely any balls left on the field.
“These guys put on a show on a day-to-day basis,” Betances said. “It’s must-watch TV.”
Judge, who is 25, acknowledged a while back that he’d been invited by Major League Baseball to participate but said he didn’t think the timing was right to announce a decision. Focused on the Yankees’ season, he wanted to wait until All-Star rosters were revealed Sunday night.
“We’re going to root each other on, but this is a competition,” Judge said. “Friendly competition.”
Marlins slugger Giancarlo Stanton will defend his title in his home ballpark. Also lined up to compete are Miami teammate Justin Bour, Minnesota slugger Miguel Sano and Los Angeles Dodgers rookie Cody Bellinger, who began the day leading the National League with 24 homers.
Colorado outfielder Charlie Blackmon and Kansas City third baseman Mike Moustakas round out the field.
“Some big boys in that thing,” Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said.
Despite his prodigious power and league-leading numbers, the 6-foot-7, 282-pound Judge said he won’t feel any added pressure to win the derby at spacious Marlins Park.
“I think we’re just going there to compete and have some fun,” he said. “There’s no pressure. I’m just going out there to have fun. If I’m doing that, I’ve got no worries.”
Judge and Sanchez are especially happy about participating together.
“It’s pretty incredible,” Judge said. “Getting to share this experience with him is pretty special.”
Both sluggers said they’ve asked Danilo Valiente, their regular batting practice pitcher on the Yankees’ coaching staff, to throw to them at the derby — and they think he said yes.
“I think we’re both just going to be taking BP,” Judge said. “Just take BP, take our normal swings, and we’re not really worried about it affecting our swing for the second half. We’re just going to go out there and try to have some fun. It’s for the fans.”
AP Baseball Writer Ronald Blum contributed to this report.
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