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Detroit manager Brad Ausmus downplays risks of participating in home run derby

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DETROIT - Brad Ausmus scoffs at the idea that the home run derby could cause a slugger to go into a slump.

"It doesn't bother me if they want to do it," the Detroit manager said before Thursday night's game against the Tampa Bay Rays. "I find it hard to believe that one round of batting practice is going to ruin your swing for the next three months."

The derby is part of the festivities surrounding the All-Star game, and past winners of the contest include stars Prince Fielder, David Ortiz and Ryan Howard. Yoenis Cespedes of Oakland won last year.

There's occasional concern that the event's format — with players swinging for the fences repeatedly through multiple rounds — can led to bad habits and fatigue.

Bobby Abreu won the contest with 41 homers in 2005 when he played with Philadelphia, but he hit just six home runs after the All-Star break that season after having 18 before it. Josh Hamilton put on a stupendous display in 2008 at Yankee Stadium, hitting 28 homers in the first round of the derby. When the real games resumed, he hit just 11 home runs after the All-Star break after having 21 before it.

"They can get worn out that night," Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon said. "It's hard to imagine that it would affect them long term. My bigger concern would just be like an injury, actually, in that particular event. I'm not a fan of it. I guess the fans are, so if the fans are a fan of it, then I guess it's OK. Would I prefer my hitters not participating? Yeah, I'd prefer they would not participate."

Maddon also questioned the need for teams to take batting practice on the field before each game.

"If we took BP like twice a week or three times a week, that'd be plenty, on the field, I think," Maddon said. "I think it's totally overrated."

As for Ausmus, he doesn't mind if one of his stars wants to be in the home run derby. It was something he never got to do as a player, hitting only 80 home runs over an 18-year big league career.

"Oddly enough, I was never asked," he cracked.

NOTES: Ausmus put DH Victor Martinez back in the lineup Thursday, after he'd missed three games with soreness in his side. ... Tampa Bay optioned LHP Jeff Beliveau to Triple-A Durham and recalled INF Vince Belnome from Durham.

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