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Hunter declines Home Run Derby invite

Hunter declines Home Run Derby invite

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ANAHEIM -- Torii Hunter took a call from an American League official on Wednesday, asking him if he'd be interested in appearing in the 2009 State Farm Home Run Derby.

Hunter said he reluctantly informed the caller that he'd have to decline. As he waits word on the severity of a muscle strain in his right groin area, the Angels center fielder -- voted onto the AL roster as the fourth-highest vote-getter in the players' balloting -- isn't sure he'll be cleared to make the trip to St. Louis for the Midsummer Classic.

"I'm hoping I'll be able to go, but I really don't know right now," Hunter said. "I had to say no to the Derby. I was in it once before, in '02. I think I hit three out."

Seated nearby on a couch, watching TV highlights in the Angels' clubhouse, was Bobby Abreu, the all-time Derby champion. Abreu produced a total of 41 homers -- a record 24 in the first round alone -- in blowing away the competition in 2005 in Detroit.

"Bobby did a little better than me," Hunter said, grinning.

When Josh Hamilton put on his stunning display last year at Yankee Stadium, he fell six shy of Abreu's record.

Even though he went deep only three times in the '02 Derby in Milwaukee, Hunter did outperform a couple of fairly prominent long-ball artists.

Barry Bonds and Alex Rodriguez each produced two homers in that year's competition, won by the Yankees' Jason Giambi.

Asked who he favored in the 2009 Derby, Abreu considered the list of entrants thus far and settled on St. Louis' hometown favorite, Albert Pujols, and the Brewers' Prince Fielder.

"It should be a good show with those two guys," Abreu said.

Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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