TORONTO – Vladimir Guerrero Jr., turned down an invitation to participate in next month’s Home Run Derby, not wanting to risk a flare-up of the left wrist soreness he experienced back in May.
The Toronto Blue Jays slugger is on track to start in the July 19 all-star game at Dodger Stadium, leading all American League first basemen with more than 1.6 million votes, nearly double the tally of his closest competitor, Ty France of the Seattle Mariners.
Given the show Guerrero put on as a rookie in the 2019 derby — when he hit a record 91 total homers before falling one shy of champion Pete Alonso in the final round — he’s an obvious choice for the power showcase, too.
But he skipped last year’s derby to manage his workload ahead of the second half (he ended up winning all-star game MVP honours) and declined again this year after left wrist soreness forced him from the starting lineup May 29 at the Los Angeles Angels.
“My wrist is fine right now but I've got to be careful — there are too many swings in a home run derby,” Guerrero said through interpreter Hector Lebron after hitting a two-run homer in Monday’s 7-2 win over the Boston Red Sox. “I don't want to take a chance that my wrist gets hurt again and it gets bad and I won't be able to help the team win, which is what we're trying to do here. I don't want to risk it.”
Guerrero said he’s dealt with wrist issues since the minor-leagues, “especially when I take a bad swing or if I chase a pitch and have to stretch it.” But he’s been actively working to keep the joint stable with a regimen of exercises designed to strengthen the area and regular treatment.
So far, it’s all worked to keep him on the field, as he’s appeared in 72 of the Blue Jays’ first 73 games this year, missing out only on April 28, the day after he fouled a ball off his right foot. The only other game he didn’t start was the one against the Angels, although he ended up pinch-hitting in that one, earning an intentional walk.
“I felt it a little bit for a while (at the time), but it wasn't anything big,” said Guerrero. “I've been coming here to the training room, doing all I can for my wrist to get better and right now, it feels good.”
Guerrero’s home run Tuesday was his ninth in June, part of a monster month in which he’s batting .300/.391/.620 with 21 RBIs, 21 runs and 14 walks against 22 strikeouts.
Contrast that to his May, when he hit .217/.333/.348 with three homers and eight RBIs and it’s understandable why he passed on the derby.
“I think (the wrist) is something that I'm going to have to (manage) for the rest of my career, so I just want to make sure that I keep doing all my exercises and everything that I have to do to keep it healthy,” said Guerrero, who received word of the derby invite through his representatives. “I told them that I wasn't going to be able to do (the derby) because I preferred to rest and be ready for the second half to help the team win games.”