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01/24/09 9:25 PM EST

Trimmer Cano dedicated to rebound

Yankees' second baseman vows to live up to potential in 2009

NEW YORK -- Robinson Cano's renewed fitness regimen has already drawn rave reviews through the Yankees organization. The second baseman is hoping that his workouts will translate to much more than just winter hype.

After struggling through a disappointing season in which he batted .271 with 14 homers and 72 RBIs -- and was benched for a lack of hustle -- Cano said he has been working on preparing himself both mentally and physically for the upcoming year.

The 26-year-old spent most of his offseason in the Dominican Republic, where he was permitted to play winter ball and has enlisted the services of a personal trainer.

"It's motivation for me this year," Cano said. "Now I know I have to start from the beginning this year, in April, not in June. I have to start early now."

Cano appeared Friday in New Rochelle, N.Y., at a benefit for Hillside Food Outreach, supporting an annual event hosted by former Yankees center fielder Bernie Williams. Noticeably trimmer, Cano said that he shed five pounds from the end of the regular season and currently weighs in at 208.

He believes that the Yankees helped by permitting him to play winter ball, serving as a designated hitter for Las Estrellas de Oriente. Cano also hopes that competing for the Dominican Republic in the World Baseball Classic will help him get into the swing of game action sooner.

"Anybody would like to play and defend his country," Cano said. "It's not about a team -- it's about your country. You're going to face all the best players in every other country. It's something that I'm looking forward to."

Cano said he paid no mind to published reports that connected his name to clubs throughout the Hot Stove season. One story came during the Winter Meetings, stating the Dodgers were checking to see what Cano would cost them.

The Cardinals also reportedly inquired about Cano, at least until Yankees general manager Brian Cashman, who has vowed Cano will be New York's second baseman on Opening Day, said negotiations would have to start with right-hander Adam Wainwright.

"I heard a lot of rumors, but I never pay attention," Cano said. "I've been through that the last four years, every year they say I'm going to get traded. If it happens, I have to keep playing."

But Cano could not ignore one prominent piece of gossip -- that his good friend Melky Cabrera appeared headed to the Brewers for center fielder Mike Cameron.

Those talks were eventually tabled, and Cano said that Cabrera was excited to be staying in New York, primed for a Spring Training shootout with Brett Gardner for a starting role. Both Cano and Cabrera will also be vying to make the same Classic roster.

"He's so happy that he's signed and not getting traded," Cano said. "I read in the papers in the Dominican that he was traded [to the Brewers]. Then a week later, he wasn't traded. I'm happy for him -- he's got to work out now. We've got to come ready and fight for a position."

From afar, Cano said that he was cheerleading as his club led the Hot Stove season in headlines generated. Word traveled quickly of the Yankees' moves, with Cano delivering a resounding stamp of approval to the additions of CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett and Mark Teixeira so far.

"You can't escape from the papers, and I saw every time they signed," Cano said. "Sabathia, Teixeira, Burnett -- I'm not going to lie -- I saw that in the papers and I was happy, because that's what we needed. Now we have to pray that everybody stays healthy through the whole season."

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