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07/10/06 11:20 PM EST

Cabrera places third in Home Run Derby

Third baseman connects for 15, ahead of Ortiz

PITTSBURGH -- Miguel Cabrera may be a three-time All-Star at the tender young age of 23, but the Marlins' slugger made his debut in the CENTURY 21 Home Run Derby on ESPN on Monday night, giving the fans a solid performance.

Cabrera advanced to the second round with nine home runs and hit six more before being edged for a spot in the finals by Ryan Howard of the Phillies.

"I'm glad I participated," Cabrera said. "I did my best out there and had a lot of fun. It's harder than it looks. We don't normally swing like that."

Cabrera, Howard and David Wright, who all play in the National League East, were the top three finishers in the event. Howard defeated Wright in the finals, 5-4, to take home the title.

"I think we did good tonight," Cabrera said. "Howard is unbelievable."

Cabrera was the third contestant in the first round, following Baltimore's Miguel Tejada and Houston's Lance Berkman, the two finalists in the 2004 Derby, in Houston. Each of them hit three homers in the first round, so Cabrera had an opportunity to post the first big performance of the night.

He delivered.

After recording an out on his first swing, with a fly ball to left field, Cabrera lined a 412-foot home run into the left-field seats. He said after the event that hitting his first home run was the hardest part of the night, but once he did that, he felt no pressure.

Cabrera made his second out with a harmless line drive, then hit a frozen rope to left that barely cleared the wall. He missed on his next two swings, giving him four outs and two home runs, but crushed the next two balls into the left-field seats, including one that landed in the second deck, measuring at an impressive 468 feet.

Now in the lead, with four homers, Cabrera came up short on each of his next three swings, giving him seven outs. The slugger ripped the next pitch onto the left-field ramp for his fifth homer, and one out later, he rattled off three consecutive home runs, one of which measured 471 feet.

Cabrera hit one more homer in the round, bashing one of the special gold baseballs into the bullpen in left-center field. For that homer, his ninth, Century 21 made a $21,000 charitable donation.

Troy Glaus of the Blue Jays followed Cabrera, and Toronto's third baseman managed just one homer, leaving Cabrera in the lead. Wright crushed 16 homers in his turn in the round, taking over the lead, but after Jermaine Dye of the White Sox hit just seven, Cabrera officially moved on to the second round.

Cabrera was joined by Wright, Boston's David Ortiz (10 homers) and Howard (eight).

Wright added two to his total in the semifinals, giving him 18, but Ortiz hit just three, for a total of 13. That meant that Cabrera needed just five in the second round to move past Ortiz.

Cabrera had little trouble with that, hitting two of the first four pitches into the bullpen, giving him 11. After three straight outs, he added another to his total when a fan in the front row reached out and grabbed the ball with his glove.

Cabrera alternated outs and homers over his next four swings, and added a gold ball for good measure, tacking another $21,000 onto Century 21's donation total.

"I was happy with my first round," he said. "In the second round, I got a little tired. I tried to do what I could."

With a total of 15 home runs, Cabrera was in position to advance, but Howard mashed an impressive 10 in the second round, giving him 18 and eliminating Cabrera.

"I thought I had a chance, but I knew I needed to hit more than that," Cabrera said. "It was nice. It was my first time, so I was a little nervous. I didn't know how I was going to do. It was a little different, but I'm glad I did this. If they asked me to do it again, I'd do it."

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