Cano gets Mariners chapter underway
All-Star second baseman excited after first workout with new club
PEORIA, Ariz. -- After 13 years with the Yankees organization, it didn't take Robinson Cano long to realize that things indeed had changed when he stepped on the field for the first time with his new Mariners teammates on Tuesday.
Surrounded by unfamiliar faces and working in Arizona for the first time instead of at the Yankees' complex in Florida, Cano went about his business, chatted with young infielders Kyle Seager, Brad Miller and Justin Smoak as he took batting practice and then faced a barrage of reporters curious about the new adventure for the $240 million second baseman.
Yes, things felt different, he acknowledged. It's still baseball, still the first day of Spring Training. Cano had been anticipating this moment since signing his 10-year deal with the Mariners in December, but there's always an adjustment when anybody takes a new job.
"I'm not going to lie. I just realized that today," Cano said. "You know you signed with Seattle, but [it doesn't really sink in] until you're on the field with your teammates and don't see those faces you used to watch for 13 years. Like I said, I chose here, I'm here now and I'm just excited and can't wait for the season to start."
Cano doesn't feel it will take long to get used to his new environment. And when pressed about whether he had gotten over any disappointment with having to leave the Yankees, he kept the focus on his future.
"All I can tell you is I'm happy to be here," Cano said. "I'm excited. It's even more fun than I thought, the way I've been embraced by teammates, coaching staff, the manager, front office. I feel like I'm a big part of this team right away. It's not going to take me long to get used to this uniform and this team."
Mariners ace Felix Hernandez was one of the first to greet Cano when he arrived in the clubhouse in the morning. Once on the field, he worked alongside veteran utility man Willie Bloomquist at second base during infield drills, then was in a hitting group with Miller, Seager and Smoak.
The young Mariners clearly are eager to soak up whatever they can from one of the game's premier hitters.
"He's always been one of the guys that I've kind of watched all along, so for me personally, I'm really excited just to be around him," said Seager, a fellow left-handed hitter. "Just to break down his swing and watch his swing is special. To be around him every day and see how he goes about his business and learn from him as much as I can is definitely something I'm looking forward to."
Cano shied away from any predictions about what the Mariners might do this year, but he repeatedly praised the young talent on the squad.
"I don't want to say we're close, but I know we have a team that can go out and compete," he said. "We've got good young talent, good pitching. I don't want to say we're going to be in first place, second place, last place, we just have to play together and stay together and we can do a lot of good things."
Cano's addition should help a Mariners offense that finished 12th in the American League in runs last year in a 71-91 season. Cano is a career .309 hitter who averaged 25 home runs and 97 RBIs over the past seven seasons in New York.
He'll join a lineup where Corey Hart has also been added this offseason, but Cano wouldn't mind more help as well. The Mariners signed closer Fernando Rodney, one of Cano's teammates on the Dominican Republic's World Baseball Classic championship team last year, and he endorsed adding free-agent outfielder Nelson Cruz to the mix as well.
"I wish we had Nelson here," he said. "But we've got a front office that knows what they have to do and what they can decide. That's out of my hands. I know Nelson. Great guy, and we all know what he can do with his bat and in the outfield."
The Mariners expect Cano to provide leadership on the field, but manager Lloyd McClendon says he just needs "Robbie to be Robbie" and everything else will work out.
Cano understands he'll be asked to do more on a team that doesn't have Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, Mariano Rivera or any established stars other than Hernandez. But he agrees that the most important thing is to be himself.
"I like to lead by example," he said. "When you talk too much, nobody listens. I'm going to go out and try to play every day, and that's the biggest example you can show a kid, by how hard you work and how good you prepare yourself in the offseason so you can play 162 games."
Cano says he won't change. He vows to be the same player he was before signing his $240 million contract. But one thing that did change? He's now wearing a well-trimmed beard, something that never would have happened with the Yankees' rule against facial hair.
"It's a little different," Cano said, rubbing his chin and smiling. "Now I know I don't have to shave every two days. Let's see how I do this year with this."