Confident Maggs takes shot at Derby

Confident Maggs takes shot at Derby

Magglio Ordonez doesn't consider himself a home run hitter. History suggests he has a chance in Monday's State Farm Home Run Derby.

When ESPN taped the "Big League Home Run Challenge" just before the 2003 season, the format put slugger against slugger in a one-on-one format. Ordonez was one of them. He outhomered Troy Glaus, Brian Giles and Pat Burrell on his way to the championship.

Ordonez was more of a home run hitter then, putting up a career-high 38 during the 2002 season. He has hit 83 since and hasn't put up another 30-homer year. But he's willing to see what he can do in this contest.

Thus, when asked why he wanted to do it after initially resisting, he simply said, "Why not?"

"The [Commissioner's Office] called me [to ask], so I'll do it," Ordonez added. "Maybe I'll win. You never know."

As well-known as those hitters were that Ordonez beat four years ago, he has a tougher crop now. He'll put his power up against the field of Ryan Howard, Prince Fielder, Justin Morneau, Vladimir Guerrero, Albert Pujols and Alex Rios.

Nowadays, Ordonez is better known as an overall hitter, arguably the best in baseball at the moment. His .367 batting average leads the Majors, and his 35 doubles put him on a potential record pace. However, his 13 long balls are the fewest of any Derby participant to commit so far, and he hasn't homered in more than 100 at-bats since going deep off Cleveland's Cliff Lee back on June 2.

Even teammate Carlos Guillen surpassed Ordonez's home run total with his 14th in the final game of the first half on Sunday.

"Nah," Guillen jokingly said of replacing Ordonez in the Derby now that he has outslugged him statistically.

What Ordonez lacks in quantity, however, he makes up for in quality. His walk-off blast against Oakland in Game 4 of the American League Championship Series might well go down as the greatest home run in Tigers history.

Nevertheless, Ordonez was cool to the idea of hitting in the Derby when asked about it on Thursday, suggesting that participating could mess with his swing. What might have won him over, good friend Guillen said, is the idea of it being a fan-centered event.

"When it's for the fans that you go to the All-Star Game," Guillen said, "how can you say no? He's going to the Home Run Derby to have a good time."

Besides, the idea of Ordonez winning the Derby isn't that far-fetched. After all, Ivan Rodriguez entered the Derby as a hometown pick two years ago, when the All-Star events were held in Detroit. He hit more home runs in the Derby than he did in that season, going all the way to the final round, where he lost to then-Phillie Bobby Abreu.

Ordonez, the proud owner of 232 career home runs in his 11-year career, might yet do the same.

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His manager, Jim Leyland, made a point when asked about him.

"A lot of big-league outfielders are home run hitters if they're hitting it in the right park," Leyland said. "If the Home Run Derby is in the right park, there's a lot of guys [that can hit in it]."

Ordonez joked that he might try to hit opposite-field home runs if it helps, trying for the same area where so many of Barry Bonds' homers travel. San Francisco's AT&T Park is just 309 feet down the right-field line, but it quickly expands to 421 feet to right-center, compared with 364 feet to left-field power alley.

Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.