Cespedes wins Home Run Derby again

MINNEAPOLIS -- Major League Baseball made this year's All-Star Home Run Derby more difficult to win, adding an extra round of competition.

That didn't stop Yoenis Cespedes from successfully defending his title Monday night at Target Field.

The Oakland Athletics left fielder, representing the American League, beat Cincinnati Reds third baseman Todd Frazier 9-1 in the final round. A year ago, Cespedes won at Citi Field in New York in his derby debut.

Cespedes also won numerous home runs derbies in his native Cuba and said the key to success in such events is to avoid swinging hard in order to conserve energy.

"A lot of guys try to hit every pitch completely out of the ballpark," Cespedes said. "I know my power, though. I know if I make solid contact that it can be a home run. I don't use all my strength. I try to stay relaxed."

Hitting off Athletics third base Mike Gallego, Cespedes belted a number of impressive drives, including ones of 452 and 446 feet to the second deck in left-center field. His other homers in the final round traveled 409, 420, 396, 377, 380, 422 and 381 feet.

The nine homers averaged 409 feet as Cespedes became the first player to win the event in back-to-back years since Ken Griffey Jr. in 1998-99.

"The guy is the two-time champion for a reason," Baltimore Orioles center fielder Adam Jones said. "He's a five-tool talent. There is nothing he can't do. The ball just jumps off bat. He makes it look easy."

Frazier's lone home run traveled 393 feet and came off his brother, Charlie, who was an outfielder in the Florida Marlins' farm system from 1999-2004.

"It was great," said Todd Frazier, who was participating in his first derby. "It was just an enjoyable experience, really fun time. Maybe next year I'll put up a little bit better showing, do a couple of more pushups at the end."

In a new twist to the derby, the competition went to bracketed play after the first round in which 10 hitters -- five from each league -- participated. Following the opening round, the last two finishers in each league were eliminated, and the first-place finishers received byes to the semifinals.

In the NL semifinal, Frazier blanked Miami Marlins right fielder Giancarlo Stanton 1-0. That came after Frazier downed Colorado Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki 6-2 in the second round.

Cespedes bested Toronto Blue Jays right fielder Jose Bautista 7-4 in the AL semifinal after beating Baltimore Orioles center fielder Adam Jones 9-3 in the second round. Bautista hit 10 home runs in the first round, the most of any competitor, but he did not take advantage of his bye into the semis.

Stanton, who has not hit a home run in his last 56 at-bats, led all NL hitters with six home runs in the first round to gain a bye. He hit a 430-foot shot that reached the seats above the batter's eye in center fielder and a 422-foot blast into the upper deck in left field.

Los Angeles Dodgers right fielder Yasiel Puig, who failed to homer in seven swings, was one of the four players eliminated in the first round, which began an hour late because of rain. Also failing to advance were Athletics third baseman Josh Donaldson, Minnesota Twins second baseman Brian Dozier and Rockies first baseman Justin Morneau.

The flamboyant Puig became the first player to go homerless in the derby since Robinson Cano in 2012. Oddly enough, Jose Cano, Robinson's father and a former Houston Astros pitcher, threw to Puig.

Rain not only delayed the start but also began falling during the final round, though it didn't affect Cespedes.

"It was more of a problem before we started because we had to try to stay loose," Cespedes said. "Once you get started the competition, it doesn't really matter. You just play through it."

NOTES: Toronto Blue Jays RF Jose Bautista was the American League captain, and Colorado Rockies SS Troy Tulowitzki served as the National League captain. ... Bautista and Rockies 1B Justin Morneau were participating in their third derbies, and Oakland A's LF Yoenis Cespedes was in his second. The other seven participants made their debuts. ... The Target Field dimensions are 339 feet to left field, 377 to left-center, 411 to the left-center corner, 403 to the right-center corner, 365 to right-center and 328 to right.

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