Notes: Cano beginning to heat up
Second baseman has taken off since his game-winner July 17
KANSAS CITY -- Robinson Cano can't pinpoint the exact moment when his frustration began to fade, but he is satisfied to see his work begin paying dividends.
The 24-year-old Cano has hit safely and recorded at least one RBI in eight of his last nine games entering Monday's play. On a weekend when the Yankees fattened up against Devil Rays pitching, Cano alone went 11-for-18 with a home run and six RBIs, logging his first American League Player of the Week selection.
"I'm doing the same things," said Cano, who shared the award with Tampa Bay's B.J. Upton. "I come out here and keep working hard every day. When you don't hit and don't do your job, you start thinking to figure out what's wrong. You don't have fun when you get no hits or do your job with men on base. It's different now."
Much of Cano's early season was troublesome, and though he would search video replays of his at-bats and welcomed encouragement from Yankees manager Joe Torre, hitting coach Kevin Long and bench coach Don Mattingly, resolution was slow.
Torre said that a big hit for Cano was his July 17 game-winning single to defeat the Blue Jays at Yankee Stadium, a 10th inning knock that rolled down the left-field line and earned Cano some violent slaps on the back and helmet.
"He got frustrated sometimes, and we talked to him a lot, about just not giving any at-bats away," Torre said. "He got very impatient for a period of time. I think the only thing that got him going was the result was starting to be different."
Cano finished third in the American League batting race last year with a .342 mark, and the organization remains extremely high on his future production. Earlier this season, Torre hinted that he had large ideas in mind for Cano's future power potential, though he said he would keep those thoughts private for fear that Cano's already-aggressive plate approach could become homer-happy.
"This kid is pretty special," Torre said. "To play in this arena and to do as well as he has done, from where he started from and knowing the pressure that he's put himself under, and still managing to do what he's doing, I think he's got a lot of baseball ahead of him."
Cano may be hard-pressed to equal his production from last season, one of the main reasons the Yankees felt they could sacrifice offense at traditional power positions like first base, since they were primed to receive above-average contributions from their third-year second baseman. Cano doesn't seem worried.
"I'm not thinking about last year," Cano said. "It's not about hitting .340 or .320. It's just get a hit at the right time."
Tools of adjustment: After arriving in the third inning of Sunday's 21-4 victory over the Devil Rays, new backup catcher Jose Molina saw plenty of hits and runs, but he didn't have much time to grow comfortable in his new surroundings.
Monday marked Molina's first pregame workout as a Yankee following his acquisition. The former Angel has plenty of catching experience -- one of the main reasons the Yankees moved to replace popular Jorge Posada understudy Wil Nieves -- but still will need at least a little time to get settled and learn his new staff.
"It's one of those situations where you have to try to adjust right away," Molina said. "The good thing is that there are a lot of tapes that you can watch, and go catch as many bullpens as you can. You catch the ball and work with them. That's what I've been doing all my life."
Molina said that he finally felt as though he'd had a chance to sleep in and catch his breath before Monday's game, though even the process of boarding a team charter flight sans his usual Angels teammates was "a little weird."
It beat his previous 48 hours, though, packing his gear from Minnesota and flying commercially to New York, waiting impatiently by the baggage claim to gather his belongings and corral a ride to Yankee Stadium.
"This is now the best franchise in the world," Molina said. "That's what makes it exciting for me. I want to do better than what I can do."
Proud papa: The series at Kansas City presented a prideful, if not confusing set of circumstances for Yankees first-base coach Tony Pena. For the first time, Pena is seeing his son, Royals infielder Tony Pena, play live in a Major League game.
He wasn't about to give any tips away, either; Pena walked out of the Yankees' pre-series pitchers' meeting when the Yankees got to the topic of his son's weaknesses.
"It's my son, and I'm a dad," Pena said. "We go between those two white lines, and we want to get him out. Obviously, I want him to do well and lose the game. I don't want him to beat us."
The younger Pena, who played against the Yankees in Spring Training before he was traded by the Braves, said he was thrilled to have his father, a former Royals manager and still a popular figure in Kansas City, in the building.
"It means a lot," Pena said. "This is the first chance he gets to see me play in the big leagues. It is going to be real fun for both of us. He told me that he is proud of me and keep going out there and no matter what have fun."
A family affair: Shelley Duncan had plenty to be pleased about on Monday. With the Cardinals off, dad Dave Duncan and brother Chris Duncan made the trek to Kansas City to watch Shelley bat ninth in New York's lineup, along with his mom, Jeanine, and assorted family and friends.
Torre said that he has been impressed by Duncan's power, naturally, but also his expectations of success at the big league level. Torre was struck by Duncan pounding his fists into the dugout roof at Yankee Stadium after he struck out in his first two at-bats; other players, Torre said, might meekly retreat to the bench and wonder if they belonged in the Major Leagues.
"We'll see if we can ride this horse for a little bit," Torre said. "I think it's a great story. The youngster has been just working. All he's ever wanted to do is play baseball. To have it so quickly for him, especially the success he's had, I think it's terrific."
Baby on board: The Yankees will be without the services of right-hander Scott Proctor until Wednesday, Torre said. The reliever flew home to Florida to be with his wife, Carrie, for the birth of the couple's third child and second son, Cooper.
Proctor's absence means the Yankees will stick with 13 pitchers on the roster for the time being, with left-hander Sean Henn having been summoned from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre for Sunday's game.
Wipeout: Phil Hughes was scratched from a scheduled rehab start for Scranton/Wilkes-Barre on Monday due to inclement weather. His fellow rehabbing righty, Jeff Karstens, threw six innings of one-run ball in a Triple-A victory Sunday.
Coming up: The Yankees and Royals play the second game of their four-game series on Tuesday, with right-hander Chien-Ming Wang (10-5, 3.44 ERA) facing right-hander Scott Elarton (2-3, 9.17). First pitch is set for 8:10 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.