ATLANTA - In previous years, Ryan Howard has played coy when asked about his potential participation in the Home Run Derby. This year is no different, even though the event will be taking place in his hometown of St. Louis.

Asked if he would participate, even if he's not a member of the National League All-Star team for the July 14 game, the Phillies' slugger smiled.

"I don't know," he said. "We'll see what happens."

While Howard is not likely to catch Albert Pujols at first base in the fan balloting for the starters, he could be voted into the game as a reserve in balloting by the players, coaches and managers, or selected by Charlie Manuel, who is managing the National League team. Finally, he could be voted in by the fans, who will select the final player for each roster.

Howard competed in 2007 in San Francisco, although he was not selected to the NL All-Star team. He won the event in 2006 in Pittsburgh.

Howard said he has not been contacted by the league office about the derby. *

- David Murphy