Switch-hitting J-Ram joins HR Derby field

July 9th, 2024

DETROIT -- It’s time for José Ramírez’s redemption in the T-Mobile Home Run Derby.

Ramírez announced on Tuesday that he will participate in his second Home Run Derby next Monday at Globe Life Field on ESPN at 8 p.m. ET. Ramírez is one of six confirmed participants, joining Gunnar Henderson, Pete Alonso, Alec Bohm, Bobby Witt Jr. and Marcell Ozuna.

“I just wanted to go there and compete again,” Ramírez said through team interpreter Agustin Rivero. “It’ll be fun.”

Participating in the Home Run Derby always had been on Ramírez’s professional bucket list, and he finally had the chance to fulfill that dream in 2022, when he competed at Dodger Stadium. But none of us knew at the time that he was dealing with a significant right thumb injury (one that required surgery at the end of the season) that hindered his experience. In order to swing as pain-free as possible, the switch-hitter had to bat right-handed and was eliminated in the first round of the competition by Juan Soto.

There’s no question that in his 12 years in the big leagues, Ramírez has proven he can do damage from both sides of the plate, but look at the difference from what he’s done as a lefty hitter than as a righty:

Left-handed HRs: 15
Right-handed HRs: 8

Left-handed: 165
Right-handed: 74

The first time was a fun warmup round. Ramírez said he’s going to wait to see which side of the plate feels better at Globe Life Field before determining his plans, but assuming he will be in the left-handed batter’s box this time around, a bigger show could be in store. And there’s no better time for the six-time All-Star to swing for the fences. Through 86 games, Ramírez has already hit 23 homers, just one fewer than his total in 156 games in 2023.

“I can’t wait to watch it,” Guardians manager Stephen Vogt said. “It’s gonna be a blast. Excited for Josey to have that opportunity. It’s fun. Who am I to get in the way of anybody who wants to do that? He wants to do it. Go show the world your power.”

Ramírez will once again call on Triple-A Columbus hitting coach Junior Betances, who made a big impact on him early in his pro career, to pitch to him in the Derby.

Ramírez is the last Guardians hitter to participate in the Derby. Before that was Carlos Santana in front of a home crowd at Progressive Field in 2019, but he, too, was eliminated in the first round of competition. Cleveland has never had a player win the Home Run Derby. Jim Thome was the runner-up to Ken Griffey Jr. in 1998, and Albert Belle was second to Frank Thomas in ’95. But Ramírez is looking to bring the hardware to Northeast Ohio for the first time.

This time, the tournament will look a little different from what it did in ’22 for Ramírez. This year’s first round will consist of all eight hitters swinging for three minutes (or 40 pitches, whichever comes first) before a bonus round that will go until three outs, with every pitch being either a home run or an out. A 425-foot homer in the bonus period unlocks a fourth out. The four sluggers with the most dingers will advance to the next round.

In the semifinals, contestants will be seeded based on the number of homers hit in the first round. The No. 1 seed will face the No. 4 seed, and No. 2 will take on No. 3. The same rules from Round 1 apply to Round 2. The winners of each of these matchups will advance to the final.

The final will be a two-minute round with a maximum of 27 pitches thrown. The same bonus rules will apply. Hitters will also get one timeout in each round.

And when Ramírez uses one of those timeouts, he’s going to have a slew of teammates ready to hype him up. Steven Kwan (who will start alongside Ramírez in Tuesday’s All-Star Game), David Fry, Josh Naylor and Emmanuel Clase are all representing the Guardians in this year’s Midsummer Classic and can watch their teammate mash homers from the field.

“It’s gonna feel like we’re at home,” Ramírez said. “It’s gonna be nice to have so many guys cheering for me right there at the ballpark.”