Giancarlo Stanton made his title defense official on Sunday.
Stanton became the first of baseball’s long-ball hitters to accept an invitation to this year’s Home Run Derby, which will give the Marlins’ powerful right fielder a chance to repeat as champion in his home ballpark on July 10.
Stanton made the announcement during ESPN’s “Baseball Tonight” show just hours after he smacked his 20th home run of the season in a 4-2 victory over the Cubs.
Stanton, who has 228 career home runs, smashed the Home Run Derby record last season with 61 when he won the title at San Diego’s Petco Park. Stanton has hit 93 of his home runs at home.
His longest home run that day in San Diego traveled 497 feet, and his total home run distance was estimated by Statcast at 5.15 miles.
This will be the third time Stanton has participated in the Home Run Derby, having also taken part in the 2014 event at Target Field in Minnesota.
Many are highly anticipating a potential clash between Stanton and Yankees rookie right fielder Aaron Judge, who has been invited to the event but has yet to officially accept. Judge has hit a major-league best 26 home runs this season.
The 25-year-old Judge has drawn numerous comparisons to Stanton (6-6, 245 pounds) for his similar proficiency at hitting long home runs and his 6-7, 282-pound physique.
Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo, a graduate of Stoneman Douglas High in Parkland, has also expressed interest in taking part in the event in his home area.
ICHIRO OLDEST TO PLAY CENTER FIELD
Marlins manager Don Mattingly had no idea he was setting up Ichiro Suzuki for another milestone when he put him in center field on Sunday.
But that’s how easy it is for the future Hall of Famer to set new records these days.
Ichiro’s longevity and durability earned him another place in the record books when he became the oldest player to start a major-league game in center field since at least 1900, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
Ichiro (43 years, 246 days old) was older Sunday than Rickey Henderson (43 years, 211 days old) when he started for the Red Sox on July 24, 2002.
With 3,049 career major-league hits, Ichiro needs four more to tie Rod Carew for 23rd on the all-time list. Henderson, coincidentally, is 22nd with 3,055 hits.
Ichiro started his second game this season in center field as Mattingly gave Christian Yelich the day off.
“I did not,” Mattingly said when asked if he knew about Ichiro’s latest noteworthy mark when he put together Sunday’s lineup. “I thought about it though in the first, we have a 40-something out there in center. But he doesn’t play like that. He runs good, throws good, so it didn’t feel like that.”
Ichiro hit in the leadoff spot as well Sunday and reached base on an error in the first. He scored the Marlins’ first run three batters later on a single by Marcell Ozuna as part of a three-run first that helped them beat the Cubs 4-2.
Ichiro has appeared in 63 games this season but mostly as a reserve or pinch-hitter, and is hitting only .200 after going 0 for 4 on Sunday.
GETTING INTO RHYTHM
It might take a little time for Martin Prado to really get into a hitting groove.
But on Sunday the veteran delivered one of the biggest hits in the Marlins’ victory with a two-run double in the first inning.
Prado has missed the better part of the first half of this season because of a pair of prolonged stints on the disabled list with a hamstring strain he sustained while playing in the World Baseball Classic in March.
Prado played in his third game since being activated on Friday.
“I think it takes more than three days,” Prado said. “It’s going to be a process where I have to gain more confidence and focus every single game and at-bat. Fortunately for me and for my team, I got a good pitch to hit [on Sunday].”
Prado has played in just 19 games this season and is hitting .280 with two home runs and six RBI.
But his presence in the lineup — and in the clubhouse — and his steady defensive play at third base have been missed.
“It’s just nice to have him back,” Mattingly said. “You know you’re getting a baseball player from the standpoint of mentality, knows where to be on the field, always prepared. He brings something, just a little different tone to our club.”
Mattingly said that infielder Miguel Rojas likely won’t return to action until after the All-Star break. Rojas (broken right thumb) could, however, begin to participate in rehab games in the minors before the break and has already resumed baseball activities.
▪ Monday: Off.
▪ Tuesday: Marlins RHP Dan Straily (5-4, 3.43 ERA) vs. New York Mets RHP Robert Gsellman (5-5, 6.04), 7:10 p.m., Marlins Park.