MIAMI -- The New York Yankees have health issues up and down the lineup (not to mention in the front office), but Robinson Cano's swing is in fine working order. If you factor in a two-game World Baseball Classic tuneup against the Philadelphia Phillies, Cano is hitting .615 (16-for-26) with 10 RBIs in six games as a representative of his native Dominican Republic in the WBC.
That's one piece of good news for Brian Cashman, New York's general manager, as he recuperates from a broken ankle and the disappointment of taking "no" for an answer from Chipper Jones.
Cano's icy stare is also in midseason form. In the seventh inning of the Dominicans' 5-4 WBC win over Italy, Nick Punto slid hard into second base on a force play and clipped Cano with his foot. Purists might regard that as an example of good, aggressive baseball, but Cano considered the slide unnecessary since it was the final out of the inning. So he shot Punto a look and some testy body language after the play.
"Yeah, I was upset, because it was the third time in the game," Cano said. "I don't care if you slide on a double play, but when it's a forceout at second base, the last thing you want is to get hurt like that. They're passing the base.
"I was looking at him and he was saying, 'Rob, you know I don't want to get you.' I was mad. If it's a double play and he's trying to make it down there, I don't care."
Cano and his Dominican teammates withstood some disagreements over baseball etiquette and an early gut punch in a Tuesday matinee before 14,482 fans at Marlins Park. After Chris Colabello's three-run homer off Edinson Volquez gave Italy a 4-0 lead in the first inning, the Dominicans rallied behind some terrific bullpen work and an offense that kept grinding away and finally took the lead on Nelson Cruz's run-scoring single in the seventh.
If the Round 2 opener in Miami revealed anything, it's the depth of the Dominican Republic's bullpen and the competitive zeal of manager Tony Pena's team. After two straight WBC disappointments, the Dominicans are taking the event personally this time around.
After Volquez's rough start, relievers Juan Cedeno, Lorenzo Barcelo, Pedro Strop, Santiago Casilla and Fernando Rodney combined to throw 4 2/3 shutout innings against Italy. With almost three weeks to go before the regular-season opener, Rodney is already clocking in at 98 mph on the radar gun.
And as Pena observed, "This team has a lot of emotion." Throughout Tuesday's big rally, the Dominican players charged out of the dugout and staged the kind of unbridled celebration you typically might see at the College World Series in Omaha. Or maybe the Little League World Series in Williamsport.
Cano, so accustomed to playing in a big market cauldron in New York, is clearly enjoying the opportunity to let down his hair. With the exception of the occasional question about his upcoming free agency or the Yankees' injury problems back in Tampa, he must feel as if he's having flashbacks to baseball the way he played it as a boy in San Pedro de Macoris. It was the same for Jose Reyes, Hanley Ramirez and all the other Dominican stars who whooped it up upon finally taking the lead against Italy.
"Here we have a chance to come out and just be able to give high-fives to the guys," Cano said. "We can jump. Nobody sees you trying to show somebody up. It's more about the chemistry on the team between the young guys and the veterans. We're all excited to be here and we've got one mission -- to win."
And if things get a little testy on the road to the semifinals and finals in San Francisco, so be it.