Cano faces off with Yankees

TAMPA, Fla. -- His familiar strut to the plate was there, a gait so slow he appears not to have a care in the world. His usual No. 24 was on his back at Steinbrenner Field. But Robinson Cano's uniform was Dominican blue. His number was in white.

Robinson Cano

Robinson Cano

#24 2B
New York Yankees

2012 STATS

  • GM161
  • HR33

  • RBI94

  • R105

  • OBP.379

  • AVG.313

In the fifth, Cano entered the batter’s box for the Dominican Republic's WBC team with an RBI opportunity against Yankees lefty Clay Rapada. Cano uncorked his deadly-fast swing and hit a sharp grounder between Cano’s spring training replacement, Jayson Nix, and first baseman Luke Murton -- an RBI single that scored Jose Reyes and his lone hit of the afternoon in an 8-2 Yankees loss.

“I was laughing at first,” Cano said, thinking about stepping up to the plate against his own team.

Anyone could laugh about seeing Cano in another uniform, but the cloud that hangs over his future as a Yankee was a clear subtext. Cano can choose to leave after this season, and and his agent Scott Boras are setting themselves up for what could be a record score. Despite their mixed results with long-term superstar contracts, the Yankees are sincere about keeping him. But with the Dodgers, the Phillies, the Mets and others waiting to take a crack at Cano, the Bombers are going to be tested.

Cano is clearly the most important Yankee, as illustrated by the ESPN Stats & Info blog:

In the three seasons since the Yankees' last World Series title, Cano has taken over the mantle as New York’s most important position player. From 2010-12, Cano’s Wins Above Replacement is 21.2. Granderson is a distant second at 12.1.

With that in mind, starter Hiroki Kuroda got a little extra geeked up when Cano, who finished the day 1-for-3, stepped to the plate in the first. Kuroda forced Cano to fly out meekly to left.

“I wish I could have struck him out,” Kuroda said with a smile.