Frazier has a blast in Derby, falls short in finals
With brother pitching, Reds third baseman on 'Cloud 9' at Target Field
MINNEAPOLIS -- A rainbow was the backdrop beyond Target Field when Reds third baseman Todd Frazier took his first cuts in the Gillette Home Run Derby. It proved to be a lucky omen that carried him well into the night.
But the big prize at the end proved just out of his reach as Yoenis Cespedes of the A's defeated Frazier in the finals Monday night to become a two-time Derby winner.
"To be the National League guy for Cincinnati, at least I bring that back home," Frazier said. "I'm the defending National League champ. I can put that on my resume."
The defending champion, Cespedes saved his best hitting for last with nine home runs, including several moon shots into the left-field upper deck. His longest of the finals was an estimated 452 feet. Frazier, batting second, countered on one homer that traveled 393 feet to left field.
"I was a little bit [tired]," Frazier said. "As much as you want to take pitches, it feels like you're in BP. You want to swing at everything. A good learning experience for me in case I get another one of these things."
Despite needing a swing-off to get out of the first round and hitting only one homer in the semifinals, and 10 homers in the first three rounds, Frazier still advanced to the finals.
Following a rain delay but with showers still falling on a cool evening, it was Frazier who led off the festivities as the glorious rainbow arched in the view. With his brother, Charlie, doing the pitching, his first four swings resulted in outs -- including the fourth out where the ball banged the camera near home plate. Frazier finally connected well enough on a deep drive that landed in the bullpen in left-center field. With five outs behind him, he reached the upper deck in left field for his second homer.
"When I first got out there, I felt like I was on Cloud 9," Frazier said. "Only hitting two, when you're in a place you've never been to before, you're trying to figure how the ball travels. We really didn't get much BP because of the rain. Sometimes you hit in the cage too much, you get the yips in there."
For the rest of the NL side, captain Troy Tulowitzki hit four homers and Frazier caught a break when Yasiel Puig failed to hit a single homer. Giancarlo Stanton hit seven homers for a bye to the semifinals. The final NL batter and a former Twins favorite, Justin Morneau, hit two homers to tie Frazier and forced a three-swing off against Frazier.
In the head-to-head showdown, Frazier hit one homer into the left-field upper deck. Morneau came up empty and Frazier advanced to face Tulowitzki.
"It was a lot of fun, especially getting a second chance with Justin only hitting two as well," Frazier said.
Round two is where Frazier found his groove and collected six home runs. After the fifth out came four-straight homers including a thundering opposite-field shot to right-center-field. With six outs and a flex ball worth $10,000 for charity, he put the sixth homer into left-center field bullpen that traveled 415 feet, the longest of his round.
Throughout the night, teammate and a fellow All-Star, Reds pitcher Alfredo Simon provided drinks and pep talks.
"I was cheering for him. I wanted him to pick it up and keep going," Simon said. "Before that, I went in to get some Gatorade and tried to pick it up for him and he hit six home runs."
Tulowitzki turned in only two homers in round two to bow out. That pitted Frazier against Stanton. Frazier hit only one homer with a shot to the left-field upper deck.
It proved to be just enough. After an extended break because of his bye, Stanton surprisingly did not hit one out and Frazier was the NL champion.
"I can't believe I goose-egged my second round," Stanton said with a smile. "It made a bigger difference than I thought it would."
The 28-year-old Frazier, who leads all NL third basemen with 19 home runs, was the Reds' first participant in the Derby since Ken Griffey Jr. in 2000. Frazier was the eighth player in team history to take part. Griffey was also the last player to win the Derby back-to-back.
Frazier is batting .290/.353./.500 with 53 RBIs and 14 steals this season. He is ranked 10th in the NL with 57 runs and tied for fifth in total bases (181). Last season, he batted .234 and had 19 homers in each of the last two seasons. Obviously, his next long ball in the second half will give him a career high.
"I've got to [credit] that to [hitting coach] Don Long," Frazier said. "He helped me in Spring Training and had me keep my hands down a little bit. We worked on a couple of things -- old school methods. I look a lot cleaner. My brother tells me I look more relaxed at the plate. I think that's half the battle."
Charlie Frazier, a former Minor League outfielder for the Marlins from 1999-2004, throws batting practice to his brother at his hitting facility in Toms River, N.J., during offseasons. It's the same town where a 12-year-old starred for the 1998 Little League World Series champions. Middle brother Jeff, who played nine big league games for the Tigers in 2010 as an outfielder, was also on the field to watch.
"It was a whole family reunion," Charlie Frazier said. "We were together and tried to make a game plan in the cages and just worked on different spots and stuff. He put on a good show tonight. It was awesome."
It meant a lot for Charlie Frazier to get to be on a big league stage for the first time. He got the word at 5:30 a.m. while on vacation in the British Virgin Islands. He hopped a flight to Puerto Rico on Sunday, then flew up to Newark, N.J., to meet his parents and fly together to Minneapolis. Although thrilled with the night, Charlie was in need of some ice for his arm after so many pitches were thrown.
"I'm going to be feeling good tomorrow," Charlie joked. "It was a magical moment. Too bad we didn't win. I think he put himself on the map a little bit. He made us proud."
2014 Home Run Derby results
|AL||Rd. 1||Rd. 2||Rd. 3||Final||Rd. 3||Rd. 2||Rd. 1||NL|
|Brian Dozier||2||1||6||2||Todd Frazier|
|Jose Bautista||10||Bye||4||Cespedes 9||2||4||Troy Tulowitzki|
|Adam Jones||4||3||Frazier 1||0||Yasiel Puig|
|Josh Donaldson||3||0||Bye||6||Giancarlo Stanton|
|Yoenis Cespedes||3||9||7||2||Justin Morneau|
Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Mark My Word, and follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon. Manny Randhawa is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.