Astros staple Javier Bracamonte to pitch in at All-Star HR derby
Updated: July 12, 2018 2:39pm
Early Wednesday morning, Javier Bracamonte entered the Astros’ clubhouse.
“Fifty-eight,” Alex Bregman yelled to him, “middle-in. You know.”
When he received the invitation to participate in the Home Run Derby, one he acknowledged was a surprise, Bregman had a first call.
“I said yes,” the Astros’ third baseman told Bracamonte, “and you’re the guy.”
Bracamonte, the beloved Astros bullpen catcher known for his frequent interaction with children and fans above the bullpen in other ballparks, will throw to Bregman on Monday night at Nationals Park.
“I don’t throw that hard. I throw middle 50s, 51 or 52,” Bracamonte said with a grin later on. “Because I’ve thrown BP since day one, since (Bregman’s) been here in the big leagues, I guess he feels very comfortable with me. And that’s an honor.”
An Astro since 2001, Bracamonte has Home Run Derby pedigree. He threw to both Andruw Jones and Jason Bay during the 2005 Derby. Miguel Cabrera hit off of him, too, during the 2006 contest in Pittsburgh.
He threw in two winter ball home run derbies — one to Cabrera and one to Richard Hidalgo. Both won with Bracamonte throwing.
“And here in ’04,” Bracamonte explained from the dugout of Minute Maid Park, “not in the Derby, but I threw a lot of batting practice to (Mike) Piazza, Barry Bonds, I threw to Barry Larkin.”
Bracamonte expected there to be nerves prior to Bregman’s first round, when he’ll battle No. 5 seed Kyle Schwarber. Throwing to a catcher and without a batting cage is not familiar to Bracamonte.
“It makes it a little strange,” Bracamonte said. “You’re so used to not having anybody back there and so used to having a batting cage, it’s so open. Usually if you know you’re going to throw BP, I don’t look at the batter. I just look down and I throw the ball not looking, I look at the last second I release the ball.”
When he’s not throwing batting practice, Bracamonte can often be found catching pregame bullpens or warming up pitchers during the game. The All-Star Game will be the fourth of his long baseball career, a reward he (playfully) ensured manager A.J. Hinch recognized during a team meeting last week.
“At the end of the meeting, Javi made sure to mention that I didn’t mention him, this being his (fourth) All-Star Game that he’s been to,” Hinch said. “So I’m happy he’ll get to throw some BP, but now I won’t forget that. If we happen to get to the World Series again next year, I’ll remind the group that Javi’s a veteran of All-Star Games.”