Ortiz gears up for Home Run Derby
Slugger returns to the Derby on Monday night in Pittsburgh
CHICAGO -- David Ortiz spent the entire first half playing his own version of home run derby. So who better to win the CENTURY 21 Home Run Derby on ESPN on Monday night than the man who makes a common practice out of hitting towering blasts for the Red Sox?
"I just swing hard in case I hit it -- that's it," said Ortiz.
That strategy, which he will take with him for his third consecutive All-Star Derby, is the same one he uses in regular-season games.
Ortiz is paid to hit home runs and drive in runs, and he does it perhaps better than anyone in baseball.
Big Papi is the first player in Red Sox history to enter an All-Star break with at least 30 home runs. He went on a tear on the last road trip before the break, belting eight homers in a nine-game span.
Ortiz has enlisted a member of the Phillies to aid his quest to win the Derby. He asked Phillies bullpen coach Ramon Henderson, who served up last summer's record-setting Derby performance by Bobby Abreu, to be his pitcher. Henderson will also pitch to Phillies slugger Ryan Howard.
Two years ago, Ortiz used Red Sox batting practice pitcher Ino Guerrero. Last year, he took swings at third base coach Dale Sveum.
Perhaps Henderson will make the difference.
"Really good guy," Henderson said of Ortiz. "I pitched to him at the World Baseball Classic."
Ortiz is in one of the best home run grooves of his career.
"I feel good at the plate right now," said Ortiz. "Like I said before, you have to just work on it and keep working on it."
While some players might get overly excited during a glamour event like the Home Run Derby, Ortiz views it as just another showcase for his enormous power.
"I'll be interested to watch Big Papi, he'll put on a show," said All-Star second baseman Mark Loretta. "He likes it. He enjoys putting on a show. He's a showman, so this is good for him."
Last year, Ortiz put on a clinic during the first round at spacious Comerica Park, roping 17 homers. PNC Park is a more comfy hitter's park, which would seem to make the possibilities endless for Ortiz.
"Yeah, [it's a] good park to hit in," said Ortiz. "It's short."
The Derby, on the other hand, is a lengthy event, one that has worn Ortiz down a little in past years.
"It gets you tired," said Ortiz.
He can hit home runs in bunches with the best of them, but Ortiz admits that the format of the Derby is unique from the daily clinics he puts on during the regular season.
Can he find a way to stay fresh this year?
"I don't know," Ortiz said. "We'll see."
As usual, it will be a must-watch when Ortiz digs in and aims for the fences of PNC Park.
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. Ken Mandel contributed to this report. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.