Los Angeles Dodgers rookie center fielder Joc Pederson became the fifth player in franchise history to participate in the Home Run Derby. On top of facing the challenge to improve on failed performances by Dodgers players in years prior, the 2015 Home Run Derby at Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati featured a new format.
Under the change the eight participants were seeded and pitted against one another. Each player had four minutes to hit as many home runs possible, without worry of number of outs, and could earn bonus time.
Pederson competed against Baltimore Orioles third baseman Manny Machado, who hit first out of the matchup and clubbed 12 home runs. With Dodgers Triple-A Oklahoma City hitting coach Johnny Washington pitching to him, Pederson appeared at ease and advanced to the second round with 13 home runs without the aid of bonus time.
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim first baseman Albert Pujols edged Chicago Cubs rookie third baseman with 10 home runs to Bryant’s nine. Whereas Pederson had the benefit of watching Machado set the number needed to advance, Pederson swung first in the second round.
Whether that had an impact can be debated, though there’s no denying Pederson got off to a slow start before picking up some steam late. He hit nine home runs through four minutes, then added three more in 30 seconds on bonus time for a second-round total of 12 home runs.
Meanwhile came out of the gate better than his first time up. The pace suggested Pujols would easily defeat Pederson, but he slowed over the final minute. Despite earning 30 seconds of bonus time, Pujols finished two home runs shy of beating Pederson.
With Pederson moving on to the final round, he became the first player on the night to bat first and advance. There was little rest for the weary as Pedersoon was booed upon stepping back in the batter’s box to match swings with Cincinnati Reds hometown hero Todd Frazier.
Pederson again got off to a slow start, then rebounded with six consecutive home runs. He called the permitted 45-second timeout with 2:15 remaining and hit seven more in regulation. Pederson tacked on one more in bonus time to finish with 14 home runs.
Frazier hit five home runs and called for time with 2:35 left in the final round. He responded with a flurry of home runs late to tie Pederson and came a few feet short of winning the contest on the final pitch in regulation. Frazier then won the contest on the first pitch of bonus time.
While Pederson didn’t walk away with the Home Run Derby trophy, there’s no denying he improved on the Dodgers’ previous representation in the contest. Heading into the 2015 event, Hee-Seop Choi held the franchise record with five home runs in 2005.
Last year Yasiel Puig joined Mike Piazza (1993 and 1994) as Dodgers who failed to hit one out. Matt Kemp hit two home runs in 2011 and regressed in 2012, hitting only one. Pederson’s All-Star week continues Tuesday as he’s slated to start in left field and bat eighth.