Joc powers to Derby finals, falls to Frazier
Pederson finishes second with 14 homers in championship round
CINCINNATI -- The frenetic pace of the Gillette Home Run Derby presented by Head & Shoulders was starting to catch up with Joc Pederson's pitcher, Johnny Washington, as he readied himself for the final round of the event Monday.
"That," Washington said afterward, sweat still rolling down his forehead, "... was like a cardio workout."
Imagine how Pederson felt, as he peppered pitch after pitch in the seats at Great American Ball Park, falling just short of topping the hometown favorite, Todd Frazier of the Reds, who won, 15-14.
But what a ride it was for Pederson, the 23-year-old Dodgers rookie outfielder, who on Tuesday will start in left field for the National League in the All-Star Game presented by T-Mobile.
In all, Pederson hit 39 home runs on the night.
"I had so much fun, I'm sure he [Joc] had a blast," Washington said. "We just wanted to go out there and put on a good show for the crowd."
Pederson did just that.
After topping Manny Machado of the Orioles in the first round (13-12), Pederson edged Albert Pujols of the Angels (12-11) before advancing to face Frazier, who had the support of, well, just about everyone clad in red who attended the event.
Did Pederson feel like the decided underdog?
"No, not really," he said. "It is what it is. Just to be in the same group as all eight of us was a huge honor.
"I'm pretty tired. It's a great event. The fans were really into it."
Hitting first in the final round, Pederson hit home runs on six successive swings in 37 seconds. He then called a timeout with two minutes and 15 seconds left, still stuck on six home runs.
Pederson resumed his round with more home runs in bunches, finishing with 14. That left him to wait for Frazier, who hit last.
"Once we got into the finals, I thought we had a great chance. But I also knew the hometown hero was going to try and pull something off," Washington said.
Washington was right, as Frazier pulled even with Pederson with his 14th home run just before the end of regulation time. But given bonus time, Frazier connected with the first pitch that he saw for the Derby winner.
Because of the new format to the Derby -- now a timed event with a bracket format -- Pederson and the other seven contestants found themselves working up a fast sweat round after round.
Just before the finals against Frazier, he allowed himself a moment to step back and take in the wild scene at the ballpark.
"My last round, I did. As everyone says, 'Slow down and enjoy yourself. Take a deep breath.' It was pretty cool," he said.
Pederson started fast Monday and hit some of the longest home runs of the event.
That Pederson launched so many deep drives didn't come as much of a surprise for those who have watched him this season. Heading into the Derby, 13 of his 20 regular-season home runs traveled 420 or more feet.
"That was really special to see that," said Cubs third baseman and fellow rookie Kris Bryant of Pederson's power display. "I played against him in the Minor Leagues before and have had a chance to watch him this year; the guy has stupid pop up there.
"It's really fun to watch him play."
And, Washington said, fun to pitch to.
The two first got to know each other in the summer of 2011 when Washington was the hitting coach for Class A Short-Season Ogden when Pederson showed up, just 19 years old and in search of a workable swing.
The two struck a fast friendship. One day during that first season in Ogden, Washington told Pederson that when he eventually made it to the Home Run Derby -- not if -- he would want to pitch to him.
After Pederson's final round, he made a beeline toward Washington. The two then embraced in front of the National League dugout. Washington beamed with pride.
"If he continues to work hard and grow as a player, he should be fine," said Washington, now a coach for the Dodgers' Triple-A affiliate in Oklahoma City. "But what can he be? We don't know yet."