Notes: Advice brings Cano back
Aid of coaching staff helps second baseman overcome woes
SAN FRANCISCO -- Robinson Cano listened to plenty of early season advice, positive words meant to help spur him from a skid that had him concerned he wasn't doing enough to help the team.
He absorbed those words, positive energy directed from Yankees players, coaches and personnel. It has all started to come together for Cano, who now says he has just as much confidence as during his .342 campaign last year.
"The last two weeks, it's been much better than the beginning," Cano said. "I don't have any reason. I've been doing the same thing. I knew it was just the beginning -- if it was August or September, that would be frustrating."
Yankees manager Joe Torre likes to point to both Cano and Melky Cabrera as two players who appreciate baseball for what it is -- a game -- and bring enthusiasm and energy to the contests in which they play. One of Torre's vivid memories is the Yankees' five-game sweep of the Red Sox last season, when seemingly everyone on the club was tight with anticipation except for Cano and Cabrera.
But even that carefree attitude was hindered somewhat by Cano's early season struggles. After finishing third in last year's American League batting race, the 24-year-old's first two months were underwhelming, as he batted .270 in April and .260 in May.
"I don't want to say he thought it was easy, but it's certainly more work for him now," Torre said. "The results aren't what he had last year, but that's what this game is all about, adjustments as you go along.
"He's not a quitter and he's going to be a special player, there's no question. It's going to take a lot of work and a lot of patience on his part."
So Cano heard the words of wisdom from the club's coaching staff. Hitting coach Kevin Long was among the most instrumental, gently pushing Cano along to a hot June in which he had logged 12 hits in his last 35 at-bats -- including a 2-for-4 performance in the series opener at AT&T Park -- going into Saturday's play.
"K-Long had been telling me, 'I don't worry about you. I know you're going to hit. You've just got to keep your confidence,'" Cano said. "When you struggle, you need somebody to give your confidence back."
Cano also said that Reggie Jackson, an advisor to the organization and a frequent contributor in clubhouse discussions, chipped in with a few memorable pearls.
Swing at strikes, Jackson told Cano. You don't need to worry. And, with Mr. October's words, Cano didn't.
"This is a guy, Reggie Jackson, who is a Hall of Famer in this game," Cano said. "It's not that I ever worried, but I want to help the team, too.
"I wasn't doing my job, and we were losing games. Things are much better now. I never put my head down. It was early in the season. I just kept working hard."
Great performance: Perhaps, as third-base coach Larry Bowa suggested, Cabrera should be considered for an Oscar.
The Yankees outfielder was sprawled on the ground on Friday night after fouling a ball off his right shin against the Giants' Randy Messenger in the sixth inning, sending Torre and trainer Steve Donohue out to check on him.
"It obviously hurt a great deal," Torre said.
But Cabrera limped back to the box and found a way, ripping a ball to the gap in right-center field and racing all the way to third base, where Bowa called him a few choice words. Cabrera was sporting some treatment on the leg on Saturday, but said he was fine to play.
First things: Catcher Jorge Posada may make his second start of the season at first base in Sunday's series finale, Torre said, but no decision has been made yet.
Torre said that Posada, who entered play on Saturday 4-for-16 on the road trip, appears to be dragging a little bit and may need a day off; taking Sunday off would give him two days of rest with Monday's off-day. Wil Nieves is expected to catch starter Mike Mussina.
Bombers bits: Expect left-hander Kei Igawa to get at least one more start in the rotation. Torre said the Yankees' goal is to have him "straightened out," but that he wasn't auditioning on Friday. ... Miguel Cairo started again at first base on Saturday. Andy Phillips has started just once since having his contract purchased on Tuesday. ... Torre needs one more victory for 2,010 in his career, which would give him sole possession of ninth place on the all-time list. Torre tied Leo Durocher with Friday's win.
Coming up: The Yankees will wrap up their weekend by the Bay on Sunday, matching up with the Giants for one final contest.
Mussina (3-4, 5.10 ERA) will get the call for New York, with left-hander Noah Lowry (6-6, 3.74 ERA) going for San Francisco. First pitch is slated for 4:05 p.m. ET on the YES Network.
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.