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03/21/2013 10:59 PM ET

Classic MVP Cano set to help Yanks right off bat

Dominican hero back in lineup Thursday night, expected to play on the road Friday

TAMPA, Fla. -- The pinstripes were waiting for Robinson Cano as he reported back to his locker at George M. Steinbrenner Field, his service with the victorious Dominican Republic World Baseball Classic club now complete.

While Cano will always have the memories of this year's Classic to cherish, along with the Most Valuable Player trophy that he earned by hitting at a feverish pace for the Dominicans, the Yankees second baseman said that he is ready to get back to business with his usual club.

"It's what you want," Cano said. "You want to go there and just win it all. Thank God we ended up winning, and I would say one job is already done, so now just focus in here and get ready for the season."

After traveling to Florida from San Francisco on Wednesday, Cano said that he did not need any more of a break following the Classic. Manager Joe Girardi put his name in Thursday's lineup, batting third and playing second base against the Twins.

Girardi said that he also expects Cano to play on Friday against Minnesota in Fort Myers, Fla., then take Saturday off. Girardi believes that Cano's time in the Classic could prove to be beneficial.

"The WBC, I'm going to guess, probably helped him because the intensity was there and he's physically in a pretty good position right now," Girardi said. "We don't have to necessarily play him every day the last week of Spring Training to get him in shape. He's played a bunch of nine-inning games, so it could help."

Playing for Yankees bench coach and Dominican manager Tony Pena in the Classic, Cano finished the tournament batting .469 (15-for-32) with four doubles, two home runs, six RBIs and six runs scored, leading all Classic players with 15 hits -- a single-Classic record.

"It means a lot, but it's not only about the MVP, it's about winning it all," Cano said. "The way we ended up winning, that's all that matters. You don't want to go out there thinking about yourself, it's all about winning."

Pena said that the Classic helped Cano to begin "starting to see himself like a leader," and Yankees chief international officer Felix Lopez said on Thursday that he believes the victory further proves the importance that the Yankees continue to search for talent in the Dominican Republic.

"Cano was a great leader," Lopez said. "I hope that winning attitude they showed in the Classic could rub a little bit on us and maybe he can be the leader that he was of that team and take us to great things."

Cano is returning to a club that badly needs him to continue swinging a hot bat, considering the Yankees' lineup figures to be without both Curtis Granderson and Mark Teixeira until at least early May.

"Hopefully I'll continue doing the same things I've been doing every year -- just go out there, play hard and help the team to win games," Cano said. "Hopefully the guys that we have help us to just stay in the race until you get Granderson and Teixeira back."

A-Rod likely to cheer on teammates at opener

TAMPA, Fla. -- Alex Rodriguez is not going to return to the Yankees' lineup until at least after the All-Star break, but the team does expect him to be present when the team takes the field on Opening Day.

It has been a while since Rodriguez has been around the club, as he is continuing his rehab from left hip surgery in New York and has not appeared at George M. Steinbrenner Field at any point this spring.

"I text him about once a week," manager Joe Girardi said. "He says his rehab is going well. He feels pretty good. He's doing more and more every week I talk to him."

Girardi said that Rodriguez is now performing exercises in a pool, and Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said that the organization is keeping close tabs on Rodriguez's progress.

"I keep in touch through our trainers with how he's doing," Cashman said. "He's doing everything he needs to be doing."

Cashman said that Rodriguez will probably not be ready to begin on-field activity by the time the Yankees return to New York, making it likely that Rodriguez will be in attendance for the April 1 opener.

"He's just doing his physical activity," Cashman said. "Once he does baseball activity, we'll get him obviously down here [to Tampa]. Right now he's just in a physical therapy program."

Girardi said that it must feel "odd" for Rodriguez not to be around his teammates, and said that it would be good to see Rodriguez around the club more.

"It's kind of like when Jorgie [Posada] retired, not having him," Girardi said. "Even though Alex is still a player, we haven't had him all spring, so it is kind of strange."

Yankees honor 'Missions Made Possible' founder

TAMPA, Fla. -- The Yankees kicked off the announcement of this year's upcoming HOPE Week with a pregame ceremony on Thursday, honoring 73-year-old Ken Guill for his work in founding the non-profit humanitarian organization "Missions Made Possible."

Missions Made Possible (www.missionsmp.com), an Orlando, Fla.-based agency, was recognized on the field prior to Thursday's game against the Twins. The organization provides lifeguard and emergency relief flights for those in need of sudden transportation due to unfortunate health problems.

"What does it mean to be recognized by the Yankees? It's beyond expression and words, the thankfulness that has occurred, for my whole crew and all the other people that make it happen," Guill said. "It's not just us, but there's mechanics behind the scenes and other people that would have loved to been here too."

Guill was joined by vice president, co-pilot and co-founder Joe Kemmer, co-pilot Chris Meyer and flight nurse Vicky Smith, all of whom were invited guests of the Yankees.

HOPE Week (Helping Others Persevere & Excel) will return for the fifth consecutive season from July 8-12, a community program that brings to light five stories intended to inspire individuals into action in their own communities.

Bombers bits

• Yankees right-hander Phil Hughes is scheduled to throw 45 to 50 pitches in a Minor League game on Thursday at the club's Himes Avenue complex. The Yankees have not yet decided if Hughes, who is coming back from a bulging disk, will be in the first turn through the rotation to begin the season.

"As I told him, worst-case scenario is maybe you miss one start," manager Joe Girardi said.

• Travis Hafner was spotted wearing an ice pack on his right wrist during Thursday's game, but the Yankees designated hitter said it was just for routine maintenance and that he does it "a couple times a week."

Hafner was scratched from Friday's road trip to play against the Twins in Fort Myers, but Girardi said the move was made so Hafner could get more at-bats playing in a Minor League game in Tampa.

Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and read his MLBlog, Bombers Beat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.