PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. — Robinson Cano adjusted his neon orange batting gloves, strapped blue protecting guards round his proper shin and elbow, then took a step towards residence plate to face dwell pitching on Wednesday. Before Cano may take a full swing, Mets Manager Mickey Callaway made a request of his new second baseman.
“Hey, man,” Callaway stated. “Try not to kill the pitchers today.”
Cano smiled. Already in rhythm lower than a week into spring coaching, he had rocketed balls again up the center in a earlier session. Pitcher Jason Vargas, a left-hander, proceeded to throw inside to Cano, who stepped again to keep away from being hit. Vargas expressed frustration about his management and apologized; Cano remained calm. Callaway took observe.
“He’s so relaxed,” Callaway stated. “He just knows he’s going to do it, and that’s the goal for every player, letting the work they’ve done in the past speak for itself.”
Cano, 36, arrived in camp as a newcomer to the Mets, and their oldest participant. The former Yankee is returning to New York after 5 seasons in Seattle amid elevated scrutiny as a result of he served an 80-game suspension final season after testing optimistic for a banned substance.
He has expressed optimism about his new staff’s prospects, despite two consecutive shedding seasons, and vowed to assist construct a winner in Queens.
“I feel like I’m 25,” stated Cano, who additionally sustained a fracture to his proper hand after being struck by a pitch simply earlier than he was suspended. “I want to go out and grind and feel like I’m competing for a job. I don’t take anything for granted.”
Plenty has modified since he signed a 10-year deal price $240 million with the Mariners in December 2013. Back then, Brodie Van Wagenen, now the Mets’ normal supervisor, represented Cano as an agent, Tim Tebow was still exploring his options as a quarterback in the N.F.L., and Alex Rodriguez was one of Cano’s teammates with the Yankees.
Cano reconnected with Rodriguez, now an ESPN broadcaster, by the batting cage on Wednesday. Rodriguez, 43, referred to Cano as his “student.”
No longer a sidekick to future Hall of Famers in pinstripes, Cano will be counted on to help mentor the younger Mets as the organization transitions from the David Wright era.
“Nobody is going to replace David Wright in this organization,” Cano said. “We all know what he did.”
Cano, who made three All-Star Games as a Mariner but did not reach the playoffs, maintained that he had no regrets about the cross-country move. Van Wagenen negotiated his free-agent contract with Seattle in December 2013, and Cano left the Bronx after nine seasons and a World Series title.
Mets outfielder Michael Conforto, a Seattle native, was a sophomore in college at the time, and he began studying Cano’s fluid strokes more closely.
“He makes everything look easy: the way he swings, the way he throws, the way he fields,” Conforto said. “I’ve always been a fan of his. So when he was signed, I was pumped up about that. For me to be in the same locker room, maybe he’ll rub off on me a little bit, and we can talk what he thinks when he is up there.”
Cano is a cautionary tale now, as well. Though he hit .303 in 80 games last season, Major League Baseball handed down the 80-game ban because Cano tested positive for furosemide, a diuretic he said he received from a doctor for a medical condition. It is also used as a masking agent, to disguise the presence of other banned substances. Under Major League Baseball’s drug policy, a player who tests positive for a diuretic is suspended if he cannot prove that he used it for legitimate purposes.
After Van Wagenen acquired Cano in a trade during the off-season, Jeff Wilpon, a Mets owner and chief operating officer, asserted that he was “very comfortable” with Van Wagenen’s explanation of Cano’s suspension.
“I could be proven wrong, but I don’t think he’s a drug cheat,” Wilpon said of Cano after the trade.
Cano has been quick to establish himself in the clubhouse. His stall puts him next to Todd Frazier, another former Yankee, and to Pete Alonso, a 24-year-old battling for the first base job. Callaway recalled Cano standing up in the Mets’ first spring training meeting to address his teammates.
On Thursday, Cano, who drew criticism for not running out ground balls as a Yankee, set the pace during baserunning drills. He said he believed they could be the first steps toward a return to the playoffs.
“I grew up through the Yankees system,” he said. “They teach you how to be a champion from the minor leagues. You want to win a championship, you want to make it the playoffs so many times. Coming back here. I’m looking forward to getting back in the playoffs.”
In the clubhouse at First Data Field, Cano inherited Wright’s locker. Cano played in the minors and majors against Wright, who suited up for his last game in September after years of battling back injuries. “It was sad that he had to end his career that way,” said Cano, who will be 40 when his contract is up. He said he did not plan to join Wright in retirement anytime soon.
“As long as I feel good, for me, I love to play this game,” he said. “You know, as a young kid, I wanted to play in the big leagues, so as long as I have the opportunity to go out and play everyday, I would love to.”