If Yoenis Cespedes made hitting home runs at cavernous Citi Field look easy on Monday night, it's because, well, it was easy for the A's slugger.
"This stadium may be very difficult, but it's not as difficult as Oakland," Cespedes said via a translator shortly after winning Monday night's Home Run Derby. "And if I can do it in Oakland, I can do it anywhere."
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Cespedes topped Washington Nationals phenom Bryce Harper, 9-8, in the final. The Cuban defector put an exclamation point on the victory with a 455-foot bomb off the back of the batter's eye in center field -- the deepest part of the park -- and topped it off with a celebratory bat flip.
Even though Citi Field is known as a pitcher-friendly park, Cespedes left the announced crowd of 43,558 oohing and aahing with each homer he hit. The outfielder sprayed 17 home runs to every part of the park in the first round, with several of them reaching the upper decks. His first-round total ended up being more than any other player's two-round total.
"When I took my first five swings, I felt that I was really into a rhythm and felt that I could put on a show tonight," said Cespedes, who came into the All-Star Break with a .225 average and 15 home runs.
The show continued in the second round. With a spot in the finals already clinched, Cespedes added six more home runs to his total, though he admitted that he could have probably hit more.
"I told [batting practice pitcher Mike Gallego], 'If you can maintain the same consistency and keep it low to me in the third round, I'll be able to get into a rhythm,'" Cespedes said. "In the second round, unfortunately, there was one that I wanted and then there were two or three that were not in my zone."
After Harper hit eight home runs to lead off the final round, Cespedes responded with moonshot after moonshot, with one of his longballs hitting a pickup truck in center field. Cespedes won the truck as part of a special promotion.
In all, it wasn't too shabby a performance for someone who's not only not an All-Star, but someone who wasn't even supposed to be on the Derby roster. Yankees second baseman and AL Home Run Derby captain Robinson Cano approached Cespedes about the Derby only after one of his main targets had declined the invitation.
"I asked the guys, and they weren't available," Cano said before the Derby. "I said, 'Let me choose somebody that's not an All-Star so he can get an opportunity to be here.'"
Still, Cespedes looked very much at ease in the batter's box, which he credited to some previous Derby experience.
"Before I came, they asked me if I was going to be nervous because I would be participating in front of possibly 50,000 people," Cespedes said. "When I was in Cuba, I participated in five Home Run Derbies. it wasn't 50,000 people, but it was 30,000 or 32,000 people and I wasn't nervous."
With his All-Star Week festivities over -- he will not be in Flushing for Tuesday's All-Star Game because of a family matter in Miami -- Cespedes can return to Oakland focused on helping the A's hold onto their two-game lead in the AL West. Of course, taking a little extra hardware back to his teammates at O.co Coliseum won't hurt, either.
"Before I left," Cespedes said, "they asked me to bring home the trophy."