Alonso will defend HR Derby title; Guerrero to sit out

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NEW YORK — Mets slugger Pete Alonso will defend his Home Run Derby title at Coors Field on July 12, but there will be no rematch with Vladimir Guerrero Jr. of the Toronto Blue Jays, who has decided not to take part.

Alonso made his announcement Wednesday on his Instagram page. He joins Japanese two-way sensation Shohei Ohtani of the Los Angeles Angels in the derby, held on the night before the All-Star Game.

“I had so much fun during the first one, so I was like, you know what? Let’s do it again,” Alonso said. “I just had a blast, and it’s a really special moment, and as long as I have an opportunity to do it, I want to do it. Because it’s something that I always dreamt about as a kid.”

Alonso won the derby at Cleveland’s Progressive Field in 2019, the last time it was held, by defeating Guerrero 23-22 in the final round.

Guerrero, who shared the major league home run lead with Ohtani heading into play Wednesday, spoke before the Blue Jays’ game in Miami. Guerrero also leads All-Star voting and plans to play in the game, but said he wants to get some rest during the break.

“I feel good physically,” Guerrero said through a translator. “Everything is going well. There is a long way to go still. I just want to keep it that way.”

Guerrero has 23 homers and also leads MLB in slugging and OPS. Alonso has 11 homers and set a rookie record with a major league-high 53 in 2019.

The derby and All-Star Game were canceled last year because of the coronavirus pandemic, which delayed the start of the season until late July.

“I just know it’s going to be a hell of a time,” Alonso said. “It’s going to be a star-studded derby.”

Alonso’s cousin threw to him two years ago, an experience the New York first baseman called “absolutely surreal.” But he said Mets bench coach Dave Jauss will be his batting practice pitcher this time in Denver.

“I know a lot of guys get affected by the high altitude. But for me, like, I love it,” Alonso said. “I love it out in Colorado, and I usually spend some time out West in the offseason, so I know what the altitude’s going to be like.”

Only two players have won consecutive home run derbies: Seattle’s Ken Griffey Jr. in 1998 at Coors Field and 1999 at Boston’s Fenway Park, and Oakland’s Yoenis Cespedes in 2013 at New York’s Citi Field and 2014 at Minneapolis’ Target Field.

“I’d love to win it again,” Alonso said. “I just need one more than the other guy. That’s it.”

Guerrero said he decided to skip this year’s event after consulting with his father, Hall of Famer Vladimir Guerrero.

Guerrero Jr. said he’ll be at the derby as a spectator.

“I’m planning to take my camera with the mike on to record everything, and enjoy the moment and support the rest of the guys,” he said.

MLB, union resume blood testing after pandemic, lockout

Scott Taetsch-USA TODAY Sports
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NEW YORK – In the first acknowledgment that MLB and the players’ association resumed blood testing for human growth hormone, the organizations said none of the 1,027 samples taken during the 2022 season tested positive.

HGH testing stopped in 2021 because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Testing also was halted during the 99-day lockout that ended in mid-March, and there were supply chain issues due to COVID-19 and additional caution in testing due to coronavirus protocols.

The annual public report is issued by Thomas M. Martin, independent program administrator of MLB’s joint drug prevention and treatment program. In an announcement accompanying Thursday’s report, MLB and the union said test processing is moving form the INRS Laboratory in Quebec, Canada, to the UCLA Laboratory in California.

MLB tests for HGH using dried blood spot testing, which was a change that was agreed to during bargaining last winter. There were far fewer samples taken in 2022 compared to 2019, when there were 2,287 samples were collected – none positive.

Beyond HGH testing, 9,011 urine samples were collected in the year ending with the 2022 World Series, up from 8,436 in the previous year but down from 9,332 in 2019. And therapeutic use exemptions for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder dropped for the ninth straight year, with just 72 exemptions in 2022.

Overall, the league issued six suspensions in 2022 for performance-enhancing substances: three for Boldenone (outfielder/first baseman Danny Santana, pitcher Richard Rodriguez and infielder Jose Rondon, all free agents, for 80 games apiece); one each for Clomiphene (Milwaukee catcher Pedro Severino for 80 games), Clostebol (San Diego shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. for 80 games) and Stanozolol (Milwaukee pitcher J.C. Mejia for 80 games).

There was an additional positive test for the banned stimulant Clobenzorex. A first positive test for a banned stimulant results in follow-up testing with no suspension.