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Sano to slug in 1st Derby (7 CT on ESPN)

MLB.com @RhettBollinger

MINNEAPOLIS -- Twins slugger Miguel Sano is set to participate in the T-Mobile Home Run Derby for the first time in his career tonight at Miami's Marlins Park at 7 p.m. CT on ESPN.

Sano, also named an All-Star for the first time, became the first Twins player to reach 21 homers before the All-Star break since Justin Morneau in 2009. The Dominican Republic native said he'll have roughly 20 family members on hand to watch him participate in the event.

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MINNEAPOLIS -- Twins slugger Miguel Sano is set to participate in the T-Mobile Home Run Derby for the first time in his career tonight at Miami's Marlins Park at 7 p.m. CT on ESPN.

Sano, also named an All-Star for the first time, became the first Twins player to reach 21 homers before the All-Star break since Justin Morneau in 2009. The Dominican Republic native said he'll have roughly 20 family members on hand to watch him participate in the event.

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"I've been trying not to think about it, but I'm very excited because it's the first time in my career I'm in the Home Run Derby and an All-Star," Sano said. "But I've tried to stay focused on the games, keeping my mind there."

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Sano, who will have former Cardinals third baseman Fernando Tatis throw to him, is seeded fifth in the event, and he is matched up against Royals third baseman Mike Moustakas in the first round. It's a single-elimination bracket with each hitter getting four minutes to hit as many homers as he can.

"I'm so happy for him, because he was named an All-Star, too," Sano said of Moustakas, who won the American League Final Vote. "I'm really excited to compete against a person I know and have played against a lot. I need to go there and do the best I can."

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Twins second baseman Brian Dozier, who competed in the event at Target Field in 2014, said he's been teasing Sano about what to expect.

"He's extremely nervous," Dozier said with a laugh. "I've been teasing him not to swing and miss. Instead of us trying to calm his nerves, we've tried to make him more nervous. I've been giving him all the scenarios with the camera right beside you, no cage, no catcher, microphones at your feet."

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Joking aside, Dozier said he's rooting for Sano, and he plans to watch the event to see how he does. He's curious to see how he stacks up against sluggers like Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge.

"He likes to take some ginormous cuts, and he'll try to beat out Stanton in distance," Dozier said. "So that's going to be entertaining to watch."

Twins manager Paul Molitor acknowledged it can be a nerve-wracking event, but he believes Sano's easy power should suit him well in the event. Sano ranks second in the Majors in average exit velocity behind Judge.

"More than anything, I hope he enjoys the experience and somehow, some way, he finds the pleasure in it and not the pressure in it," Molitor said. "It can be unpredictable some days how your launch mode is going to go. I watch him some days during BP, and he doesn't hit any over the fence because he's working on things or trying to stay inside the ball. And then there are days where he's feeling good or whatever, and it's flying out nine out of 10 swings."

Rhett Bollinger has covered the Twins for MLB.com since 2011. Read his blog, Bollinger Beat, follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger and listen to his podcast.

Minnesota Twins, Miguel Sano