KANSAS CITY — There is irony, no doubt, that Mariners second baseman Robinson Cano was at Kauffman Stadium when Major League Baseball announced he will be one of eight participants next Monday in the Home Run Derby.
For it was here, prior to the 2012 All-Star Game, that Cano was jeered and taunted by partisan Kansas City fans when he, as the reigning champion, pulled an o-fer.
The reaction stemmed from Cano’s decision not to select a Royals player as a participant after expressing an intention to do so. Cano still draws boos from the crowd when he plays in Kansas City.
Cano agreed to become one of the eight participants this year at Petco Park in San Diego.
"It’s something that you enjoy and have fun (doing)," he said. "I’ve been there (three times), and I want to go back. You meet a lot of guys from other teams. You make a lot of friends. It’s a lot of fun.
"(The Derby) is more fun than anything because if you play (in the All-Star Game), you get maybe two or just one at-bat and then you’re out of the game."
Cano will be joined by former Mariners teammate Mark Trumbo, now with Baltimore, and Los Angeles Dodgers shortstop Corey Seager, who is the younger brother of Mariners third baseman Kyle Seager.
Chicago White Sox third baseman Todd Frazier will return to defend the title he won last year at Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati as a member of the Reds.
Other participating: San Diego first baseman Wil Myers, Cincinnati outfielder Adam Duvall, Colorado outfielder Carlos Gonzalez and Miami outfielder Giancarlo Stanton.
The Derby format is now a seeded tournament. Cano is the fourth seed and will face Stanton in the first round. The Cano/Stanton winner will play the Trumbo/Seager winner in the semifinals.
"I’m not thinking about matching up with anyone," Cano said. "Just go there and have fun. I don’t try to do too much. If I win it, perfect. That’s the goal. But if not, I want to enjoy it and have fun.
"I’m not trying to hit the ball out of the stadium. I’m trying to hit the ball over the wall. That’s all you need."
Trumbo is the top seed and will face Seager. Frazier is seeded second and will face Gonzalez. Duvall is the third seed and will face Myers. The Derby starts at 5 p.m. Monday and will be televised by ESPN.
Cano said his father will again serve as his pitcher and pointed to his son, who will accompany him for the first time, as an added incentive.
"That’s one of the reasons I wanted to do it, too," Cano said. "I’ll be able to be with my dad and my son. With those two there, it’s going to be pretty special."
A successful spot start Sunday by lefty reliever Mike Montgomery could lead to another opportunity after the All-Star break.
Even if right-hander Felix Hernandez returns, as expected, from the disabled list in time for a projected July 20 start against the Chicago White Sox, the Mariners play five game over the preceding five days after the break.
That fifth guy could be Montgomery, who made 16 starts last season before shifting this year to the bullpen.
"It’s not in stone yet," manager Scott Servais cautioned. "We’re still playing with a couple of different ideas."
The Mariners appear to be leaning toward having James Paxton start the first game after the break, followed by Hisashi Iwakuma and Wade Miley, in the July 15-17 series against Houston at Safeco Field.
That would position Wade LeBlanc and Montgomery (or someone else) to pitch July 18-19 against the White Sox before Hernandez rejoins the rotation.
It’s worth noting that Cano, as usual, has been in attack mode all season when he steps into the batter’s box. His double in the ninth inning Wednesday at Houston was his MLB-leading 32nd hit on the first pitch of an at-bat.
Cano is batting .485 (32-for-66) when he puts the first pitch in play with seven homers and 22 RBIs.
This is nothing new.
Cano had 463 first-pitch hits in his career, which leads all players for the span starting with his debut in 2005. Detroit first baseman Miguel Cabrera ranks second in that span with 433, followed by St. Louis outfielder Matt Holliday with 363.
Through Wednesday, Cano was batting .381 (463-for-1,214) when he puts the first pitch in play.
Cano said he’ll be looking for first-pitch fastballs from his father in the Derby.
Short-A Everett center fielder Kyle Lewis went 3-for-5 with a triple and a homer Wednesday night in a 12-1 romp over visiting Eugene (Cubs).
Lewis, 20, was the Mariners’ first-round pick (No. 11 overall) last month in the MLB Draft. After a slow start, he is batting .354 (17-for-48) with eight extra-base hits and 13 RBIs in his last 12 games.
It was 22 years ago Friday — July 8, 1994 — that Alex Rodriguez, the first overall pick in the 1993 draft, made his major-league debut by playing shortstop for the Mariners in a 4-3 loss at Boston.
Rodriguez batted ninth and went hitless in three at-bats. He was 18 years, 11 months and 11 days old.
The Mariners, through Wednesday, were 2-11 in their last 13 one-run games, which dropped their overall record to 12-17. Only San Francisco, with 30, had played more one-run games. The Mariners were 28-29 last year in one-run games…third baseman Kyle Seager entered Thursday with a .381 average (16-for-42) over his last 12 games, which boosted his average from .261 to .277. He also has eight walks in the 12-game run for a .480 on-base percentage…Robinson Cano hit his 20th home run Wednesday and joined Bret Boone as the franchise’s only second baseman with multiple 20-homer seasons. Cano also did it last year after hitting just 14 in 2014 (his first season as a Mariner). Boone did it four times: 2001-04. Cano had five 20-homer seasons in his nine years with the New York Yankees.
The Mariners and Royals continue their four-game series at 5:15 p.m. Friday at Kauffman Stadium. Right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma (8-6 with a 4.43 ERA) will face Kansas City right-hander Yordano Ventura (6-6, 5.26).
The game can be seen on Root Sports Northwest and heard on 710 ESPN.
Bob Dutton: @TNT_Mariners