Steady Cano Making Case To Be A Keeper

NEW YORK —

Three times Saturday, Robinson Cano flashed a smile as big as Jay-Z's when he sees his wife, Beyonce, after a long day at the office.

The first time came when Cano, semi-fooled by a Brandon Morrow pitch, still managed to turn it into one of those short-porch, two-run homers that have blessed left-handed hitters for decades in the Bronx.

The second came when Cano picked on a flat, fat Morrow breaking pitch and drove it for a two-run homer to right-center that landed, oh, halfway to Old Saybrook.

The third time was after the game, in front of his locker, when Cano was asked if he had seen owner Hal Steinbrenner out near the Yankee Stadium warning track before the game.

"I see him outside today, yeah," Cano said after the Yankees had embarrassed the Toronto Blue Jays, 7-2.

So you put on a little show for him?

"Just trying to win games," Cano said before he laughed and walked into the late New York afternoon.

The Yankees are defying all logic this spring. Surely, they're going to be exposed. Surely, this endless string of injuries to some of the biggest names in the game will exact a mighty toll. Surely, they will lose 15 of 20 soon.

To this point, however, the only sure things we have seen are Cano and Mariano Rivera. Amid all the new faces like Vernon Wells, Lyle Overbay, Travis Hafner, etc., who are making significant contributions, there is Cano playing like the great star he is.

Look, it's early. It's not even Memorial Day. But say this much: Cano, tied for the league lead with 12 homers, looks as if he intends to stay in the MVP discussion all season.

Baseball has flashed past the quarter pole, dropping more than a hint to the biggest spenders that money does not necessarily buy happiness. The L.A. Dodgers, L.A. Angels and Blue Jays have spent the past year spending like drunken sailors in acquiring big-name talent. Unfortunately for them, it hasn't brought them success, only multiple trips to the disabled list and one-way tickets to Frustrationville.

Just when the Blue Jays looked to be turning it around with a four-game winning streak, they arrived at Yankee Stadium and have been battered, 12-2, in the first two games of this series. It was one of those days, after losing for the eighth time in nine games against the Yankees, when somebody in the visiting locker room should have turned over the lunch table and thrown some salami and mustard against the walls.

The Blue Jays seemed to be doing all the little things wrong that make for a big hot mess. Things like Jose Bautista getting picked off second base with two out in the first. Things like Morrow bobbling a sure double play ball on a come-backer by David Adams in the third. That one opened the door for Cano's two-out homer. Things like a throwing error by Maicer Izturis in the eighth that led to a two-run homer by Hafner and was followed by a laughable error off a dribbler by first baseman Adam Lind.

The Jays brought in R.A. Dickey, Jose Reyes, Josh Johnson, Mark Buehrle and Melky Cabrera, added them to Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion, and more than a few experts suggested that we were going to have to clear Canadian customs to get to the 2013 World Series.

Ah, maybe not.

Yes, the Blue Jays have 28 percent of their payroll on the DL. Yes, the Dodgers have 30 percent. But they are running a distant second and third to the Yankees, who have 43 percent of their payroll on the DL. That's $97.6 million wrapped up in "owies," or as The New York Times is calculating $22,354 per hour. A-Rod is out at $29 million, Teixeira at $23 million, Jeter at $17 million and Youk at $12 million. Andy Pettitte, also at $12 million, went on the 15-day DL Friday, with a strained left trapezius.

Unlike everybody else, though, the Yankees seemed to keep getting better the more they get battered. The pitching staff, especially Hiroki Kuroda, has stood tall. When Pettitte goes down and with Ivan Nova already out, manager Joe Girardi had an answer with David Phelps, who allowed only one run over seven innings and is making his statement to get into the starting rotation.

Yes, the Yankees are doing this with any number of movable parts. Except for Cano.

"I'm glad that's not a moving part," Girardi said, "Robby is so important to use, offensively, defensively, his presence in the lineup."

And then the money-quote of the day:

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