3/18/2013 8:53 P.M. ET
Cano comes alive in Classic after playoff woes
By Lyle Spencer / MLB.com
SAN FRANCISCO -- No hitter in the World Baseball Classic has been hotter than Dominican Republic superstar Robinson Cano, who carried a .519 batting average and slugging percentage of .889 into Monday night's Championship Round semifinal against the Netherlands at AT&T Park.
A victory would create an all-Caribbean final on Tuesday night matching the Dominican Republic against Puerto Rico, which eliminated two-time defending champion Japan on Sunday night.
Cano, who struggled mightily with the bat as the Bronx Bombers were swept by the Tigers in the American League Championship Series after subduing the Orioles in the AL Division Series, doesn't necessarily believe the freedom and camaraderie he feels with his countrymen from the Dominican Republic is a major factor in his offensive eruption five months later.
"I play the same way here or with the Yankees," Cano said. "I would say that's how you play Caribbean baseball. You go out and celebrate. That's how we play back home. I won't say I feel more relaxed. I feel the same in New York. The difference is it's a longer season in New York."
Cano would agree with Yankees faithful that it wasn't quite long enough in 2012.
While the Yankees had time to turn it around against the Tigers but were unable to generate enough offense, the Dominican athletes were facing a win-or-go-back-to-Spring Training situation against the Dutch. Nobody had to remind Cano and his teammates that it was the Netherlands that knocked the Dominican Republic out of the 2009 Classic in a stunning upset.
"We're not looking for revenge," Cano said. "We realize that to get to the final we have to win. We don't know about being the favorite. If we make it [to the title game], both teams are great teams. We are here because we've both got talent.
"So we've got to go out there and perform. You don't win on paper. You have to go out there and give it everything you've got and do the job, the little things, to win the game."
Tony Pena, the Dominican Republic manager, has seen Cano grow as a leader during the Classic. In New York, those roles have been assumed by accomplished veterans Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez and Mariano Rivera as Cano has matured into one of the game's premier players.
"I haven't thought about that," Cano said, "but I was trying to be the same guy. If there's a guy that I can help, I'll always be there. If I can say anything to help the team, I'm always going to be there. [In New York] you've got Jeter, A-Rod, Mariano. All those guys have been there before. What I'm trying to do right now is just go be with the team, be there for them and take the good and the bad.
"I would say one day [in New York] my time is going to come."
Pena's passion for game rubs off on DR players
SAN FRANCISCO -- Much has been made during the World Baseball Classic of the celebrative ways of the Caribbean teams. If you wear the uniform of the Dominican Republic and Tony Pena is your manager, you're going to play with passion and have a good time. He insists on it.
"When you love what you're doing, you don't work," Pena said before Monday night's semifinal showdown with the Netherlands. "I'm not working. This is what I Iove. This is my passion.
"I don't have to work. This is my hobby, why I have so much fun every day. This is what I want from everybody around me. I am having fun. I want my players to have fun."
Robinson Cano, Pena's biggest star on a star-laden team, senses the meaning of it all.
"I'm a player, he's a coach," Cano said. "So it's a different point of view of the game. But we both have the same mission. It's big for us. You don't have tomorrow here, so you have to go out there and win it all.
"You have 10 million people in the Dominican Republic, but what about the rest of the world [of] Dominicans that are watching the game? This is for your country, that teaches you how to play the game.
"It's a chance that you're going to have every four years. It's not that you say, `OK, we [can] get it next year. You don't know if you're going to be here again. That's something that we want for our country."
• The Dominican Republic is 2-0 against Puerto Rico in this Classic, taking a 4-2 decision in the first round in Puerto Rico and a 2-0 verdict in the second round in Miami. The festive Dominican fans love their chances when manager Tony Pena puts the ball in closer Fernando Rodney's hand. Rodney, picking up where he left off with the Rays last season, has been close to untouchable, allowing one hit and three walks in 5 1/3 innings with five saves.
• Miguel Tejada got the start at third base with Hanley Ramirez in the designated hitter role against Netherlands ace Diegomar Markwell. The odd man out is Erick Aybar, who has produced several clutch hits in the Classic. Tejada is hitting .308 in five games with 13 at-bats. Ramirez, batting fifth between Edwin Encarnacion and Nelson Cruz, is batting .176, but two of his three hits have been homers.
• Dominican Republic hitters have outhomered the opposition by 7-2 in winning all six of their Classic games prior to Monday. Cano, Ramirez and Carlos Santana each have gone deep twice. Cano and Cruz lead the team with six RBIs each. Cano has half as many total bases (24) as the Dominican Republic's six opponents.
Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.