The Los Angeles Dodgers will have a player in the annual Home Run Derby for a sixth consecutive year as Joc Pederson is returning to the event. He participated as a rookie in 2015, losing to Todd Frazier in the final round at Great American Ball Park.
Pederson put forth a valiant effort, as Frazier needed bonus time in the championship round and at that point still a member of the Cincinnati Reds, benefitted from having the hometown crowd backing him.
When Pederson accepted an invitation to the Home Run Derby four years ago, he immediately knew who would pitch to him — Johnny Washington. At the time, Washington was the hitting coach for Triple-A Oklahoma City and in his eighth season with the organization.
Again slated to participate in the Derby, Pederson hoped to reunite with Washington, but said the idea was not well-received by the San Diego Padres, according to Bill Plunkett of the Southern California News Group:
“I asked for Johnny Washington. He threw to me last time,” Pederson said. “He’s now with the Padres and it did not go over well on their side so he will not be pitching to me. It’s tough. He’s been with me. It was definitely special having him out there.”
With Dodgers manager Dave Roberts leading the National League team a second year in a row, members of his coaching staff will join him in Cleveland. Thus, Dodgers third base coach Dino Ebel or special assistant Jose Vizcaino were the top candidates to pitch to Pederson.
They each threw batting practice to the young outfielder, and Pederson ultimately tabbed Ebel as his pitcher. Ebel has previously thrown to Albert Pujols (2015) and Vladimir Guerrero (champion in 2007) in the Home Run Derby.
Washington is in his fourth season with the Padres organization, and first as hitting coach. He was the club’s assistant hitting coach last year, first base coach in 2017 and hitting coach for their Double-A San Antonio affiliate in 2016.
Pederson worked closely with Washington as the two overlapped with one another during time with Minor League affiliates and would connect during the offseasons.
Whether Ebel or Vizcaino is on the mound, the 27-year-old is the No. 5 see and will be matched up with Houston Astros third baseman Alex Bregman in the first round. The winner will face the victor from Milwaukee Brewers right fielder Christian Yelich and Toronto Blue Jays third baseman Vladimir Guerrero Jr.
Pederson joins Mike Piazza (1993 and 1994) and Matt Kemp (2011 and 2012) as Dodgers who have twice participated in the Home Run Derby. Raul Mondesi (1995), Hee-Seop Choi (2005), Yasiel Puig (2014), Corey Seager (2016), Cody Bellinger (2017) and Max Muncy (2018) round out the Dodgers’ all-time participants.