07/10/06 11:11 PM ET
Tired Berkman hits three homers
After playing 12 frames Sunday, slugger unable to advance
By Alyson Footer / MLB.com
In other words, he was tired. The Astros played 12 innings Sunday night, which delayed the All-Star traveling party's trip from Houston to the site of the 2006 Midsummer Classic.
Berkman assumed the adrenaline would kick in and carry him through the All-Star Home Run Derby on Monday. At least he was hoping.
"We'll see," Berkman said.
The jury's out on this one. Berkman hit three home runs in the first round of the Derby, and because he wasn't one of the top four finishers of the eight participants, the first baseman/outfielder didn't advance to the second round.
After much consideration, the switch-hitting Berkman opted to hit left-handed, mainly because of the dimensions at PNC Park. It's 325 feet down the left-field line, and a more inviting 320 feet to right.
Although he didn't make it to Round 2, the home runs Berkman hit were impressive. He made three consecutive outs to start his turn, but on his fourth swing, he launched a ball into the Allegheny River behind right field. It was one of three first-round homers that hit the water on the fly. Berkman's homer traveled an estimated 463 feet.
His next home run was in the form of a bouncer off the concourse that runs in front of the river in right field, and his third long ball landed in the seats behind straightaway center field.
Considering Berkman went into a three-week slump following the 2002 Home Run Derby, and there are rumblings that Bobby Abreu has not been the same since he broke the all-time Derby record in Detroit last year, was Astros manager Phil Garner just as glad Berkman didn't advance?
"There is that school of thought," Garner said with a laugh. "Actually, I don't buy it. I like it when these guys compete. It's fun when you get in that competition. You see how competitive they are. Big Papi's [David Ortiz] been in it every year, and he doesn't seem to go into a slump. There's a lot of guys that compete in this that don't go in slumps."
Garner, the manager of the National League All-Star team, had a front-row seat for the Derby, and he enjoyed the experience.
"I love the home run hitting contest," he said. "I think it's fun. I like watching these big guys hit. If you're a student of the game or just love to watch brute strength ... it's beyond brute strength because you still have to have the timing, you have to be able to control your body and do it."
Earlier on Monday, Berkman wondered if the balls used during the Derby were "juiced" -- wound tighter than those used during the regular season.
"In Houston in 2004, I hit some balls that I've never hit there before in my entire life, and the [Derby] I saw when I was in Milwaukee [in '02], guys were hitting balls up to parts of the stadium that are mind-boggling," he said. "I've hit, I've seen a lot of guys hit, and some of the places they were hitting balls, I was like, 'That's impossible. There's no way with a regulation baseball.'"
Alyson Footer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.