J-Ram clubs two homers, but will sit out Derby

All-Star third baseman now has 27 home runs on the season

July 11th, 2018

CLEVELAND -- had heard Indians All-Star talking about the Home Run Derby all week. Ramirez boasted that he was going to win baseball's annual slugfest, so Kipnis was still operating under the assumption that the third baseman was going to participate in the event.

In the wake of a 19-4 win over the Reds on Wednesday night, when Ramirez belted two more home runs for Cleveland, Kipnis reacted with genuine surprise upon hearing that his teammate ultimately opted against joining the power parade. As shortstop walked through the clubhouse, the veteran second baseman called out in his direction.

"Josey's not doing the Derby anymore?" Kipnis said.

"No," Lindor said in a dejected tone.

The Indians did not have an issue with Ramirez participating in the T-Mobile Home Run Derby on Monday night in Washington, D.C., and the third baseman recently expressed a desire to test his strength in the showcase. By Wednesday, following some internal discussion, Ramirez decided that it was more important to focus on home runs that count (like the two he belted in the win over Cincinnati).

His two blasts on Wednesday gave Ramirez 27 homers on the season, moving him one home run shy of MLB leader J.D. Martinez (28) of the Red Sox. The Derby field will include (Brewers), (Cubs), (Astros), Freddie Freeman (Braves), (Nationals), (Phillies), (Dodgers) and (Cubs).

"I sat down with the team and we made a decision, all of us together," Ramirez said via team translator Will Clements. "We just decided it wasn't the best thing for me to do at this time. It's a long season. I'm a player that plays every day and I need to save energy for the second half and, God willing, the playoffs as well."

Indians manager Terry Francona emphasized that it was Ramirez's decision to decline the invitation.

"We told him that he had our blessing, if he wanted to do it," Francona said. "I think he has good reasons for not [participating in the Derby] and I was glad. But, if he wanted to, he would have had our blessing."

Cleveland will gladly take the home runs that matter.

Ramirez took Reds starter deep in the first inning for a two-run shot and later added a three-run homer off Tanner Rainey in a nine-run outburst in the third inning. Cleveland followed that with a six-run flurry in the fourth to run out to a 17-0 lead. Lindor capped off the scoring in the fourth with a towering three-run shot to right for his 25th homer of the year.

Ramirez and Lindor are the first pair of teammates age 25 and under in MLB history to each have 25 or more home runs in the first half of the season. It marked the 10th time this year that the Indians infielders cleared the wall in the same game -- the most for any MLB duo this year.

"They are a very good tandem," Francona said. "I know they care about each other, but it's a pretty good tandem right there. They do it in a little different ways, but they're switch-hitters, they're both on that side of the infield. They're young and they are really good."

With Wednesday's shots, Ramirez established a new mark for homers in the first half of a season by a Cleveland third baseman, topping the 25 hit by Al Rosen in 1950. Ramirez also moved into a tie with Albert Belle for the most home runs in the first half in franchise history. Belle crushed 27 homers in 85 games before the break in '96.

Ramirez enjoyed a breakout offensive season a year ago, finishing with 29 home runs and placing third in balloting for the AL Most Valuable Player Award. The stocky slugger has taken things up a few notches this season, reaching 27 homers in 91 games compared to hitting that mark on Sept. 15 last season.

Lindor, who will be at the 89th All-Star Game presented by Mastercard with Ramirez next week, said the third baseman could have won the Derby had he taken part.

"I had him winning," Lindor said. "I had him going all the way to the finals. We all know anything can happen in the finals. I truly believe in his bat. I truly believe in his bat control, because the Derby right now is not about how strong you are. It's about who has the most bat control and I think Josey is one of the best at that."

Kipnis was not so sure.

"I hit BP with him. I don't want to see those scrapers [hit into] those first two rows," Kipnis quipped. "Nobody wants to watch that for a Home Run Derby. If you've got a guy on the mound throwing 95 [mph], I'll take Jose Ramirez to win the Derby. But, I think I'd rather see some big, long [homers]. He's impressive though with what he's doing. I'm just giving him [a hard time]. Dang. I thought he was doing it."

Asked for his reaction to Ramirez opting out of the event, Lindor cracked a smile.

"Who knows?" Lindor said. "Who knows what Josey's thinking? Josey's head is in a different world."