Robinson Cano is no longer with the New York Yankees, but hitting coach Kevin Long says he is still bothered by the fact he couldn't get through to his former star pupil to always hustle to first base on routine ground balls.
"If somebody told me I was a dog, I'd have to fix that. When you choose not to, you leave yourself open to taking heat, and that's your fault. For whatever reason, Robbie chose not to," Long told the New York Daily News on Sunday.
Cano, 31, left New York this offseason, signing a 10-year, $240 million contract with the Seattle Mariners. The five-time All-Star, who hit .314 with 27 home runs and 107 RBIs last season, is set to meet with the Cactus League media in Arizona for the first time Tuesday.
Long told the Daily News that he is proud of how hard Cano worked in other areas to overcome deficiencies in his game during his nine seasons with the Yankees.
"As a young kid, there were holes everywhere," he told the newspaper. "There were holes in his swing, in his makeup, in his body composition. This kid grew and grew and grew.
"All the other stuff -- he'd take plays off in the field, he'd give away at-bats in RBI situations -- he made a lot of personal decisions to get over the hump in those areas. People don't know how hard he worked, how many times he was the one asking me to do extra work in the cage."
However, Long couldn't get Cano to break his habit of not running hard to first all the time and said he wasn't the only member of the organization who spoke to Cano about the issue.
"I'm pretty sure [Derek] Jeter talked to him a number of times," Long said. "Even if you run at 80 percent, no one's going to say anything. But when you jog down the line, even if it doesn't come into play 98 percent of the time, it creates a perception."
Long told the Daily News that Cano would "say his legs didn't feel good, or he was playing every day and needed to save his energy" when asked why he didn't always run hard to first. But the Yankees coach said, "To me there was no acceptable answer."
On Monday, manager Joe Girardi wouldn't go into detail on any problem the Yankees had with Cano's lack of hustle at times. Girardi pulled Cano from a game against Tampa Bay in September 2008 when he was late retrieving Cliff Floyd's hard grounder that caromed into shallow right field, then benched the second baseman the following night.
"I have discussions with all of our players on how we expect them to play the game,'' Girardi said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.