Cano anticipates return to Yankee Stadium
Former New York All-Star unsure what to expect after offseason departure to Seattle
SEATTLE -- If Robinson Cano is greeted with boos when he steps to Yankee Stadium's plate for the first time in Tuesday's series opener between Seattle and New York, it won't be the first time this season opposing fans greet the new Mariners second baseman with something other than open arms.
Cano was jeered enthusiastically during Seattle's opening road trip through Los Angeles and Oakland. How will Yankees fans react to their former star after he signed a 10-year, $240 million contract with the Mariners last December?
"Hopefully good," Cano said last week, sitting in Safeco Field's dugout. "The way that I left New York, it wasn't a good way. You just go there to play the game and beat them."
Simple enough, right?
It will probably be a bit more complicated for the Yankees' brass. On one hand, Cano made five All-Star teams and captured two American League Gold Glove Awards during his nine seasons in New York. He barely ever took days off, helped the Yankees win a World Series and posted a .309/.355/.504 batting line.
Then there was last offseason, when he turned down New York's seven-year, $175 million offer. Afterward, he said the Yankees failed to show him "respect" during contract negotiations. Then, in Spring Training, Yankees hitting coach Kevin Long criticized him for his tendency to not run hard through first base during routine groundouts.
"Well, I don't want to blame anybody," Cano said. "[I'm] just looking forward to going there, and now I'm obviously on the opposite team … and hopefully I'll be treated nice by the fans."
Cano's replacement, Brian Roberts, is hitting just .217, but he has started to heat up in his last 10 games, going 11-for-38. Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter said it will be "odd" and a "little awkward" playing against Cano. He said it's always that way when you face a former teammate, but that he understood why Cano chose to move on.
"Baseball's a business like any other business," Jeter said. "Sometimes people lose sight of that. It's not too often guys get an opportunity -- in any sport -- to play with one team their entire career. ... As much as people would like to see guys stay with one particular team, it doesn't always happen."
CC Sabathia, Tuesday's starter and Cano's friend, said it will be just another game.
"He moved on to a better situation for him," Sabathia said. "We moved on, obviously."
Yet, not all that much has changed for either organization during the month of April. At 10-14, the Mariners enter Tuesday fourth in the AL West, the same place they finished in 2013. They are tied for 13th in the AL in runs and rank near the bottom of the league in batting average, on-base percentage, slugging and OPS.
Cano is hardly to blame for the Mariners' latest offensive woes. He begins Seattle's 10-game, three-city road trip hitting .301/.353/.387 with a home run and 11 RBIs.
At 15-10, the Yankees sit atop the AL East standings, winners of two in a row and six of their last 10.
"There's a lot different," Cano said of the difference between playing in Seattle and New York. "You can see the way New York's always crowded. … It's a team that has more championships, a team that always goes to the playoffs, a winning team. This, Seattle, is a different team. … We can compete, and I'm excited to be here. That's why I chose this city."
New York manager Joe Girardi said he thinks some will clap when Cano first emerges from the visitors' dugout. His guest appearance on Monday's "The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon" might have provided a glimpse of what his reunion tour will be like.
After taping that, Cano was whisked to Greenwich Village, where he taped in-studio segments for episode five of the MTV2 series "Off the Bat from MLB Fan Cave," which is scheduled to air at 11 p.m. ET Tuesday. Cano is a season-long executive producer for the series, along with David Ortiz of the Red Sox. Fans at the adjacent New York University campus looked on in curiosity and many fans were waiting. "Celebrity sighting," one of them said as Cano left the Fan Cave around 7:45 p.m.
Boos or not, there's no denying what Cano gave New York.
"He was a great player here," Girardi said. "He was a champion. … He was a really, really good Yankee."
Adam Lewis is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.