SAN FRANCISCO -- Putting on the pinstripes can wait. For one more game, Robinson Cano's priority will be the Dominican Republic, which is set to face Puerto Rico in Tuesday night's all-Caribbean final of the World Baseball Classic.
Cano left his day job with the Yankees for what has seemed like baseball's version of spring break, but the Dominicans have proved the WBC has been more than a party to them.
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Former Met Jose Reyes' two-out RBI single snapped a 1-1 tie in a four-run fifth, and he later scored on a wild pitch in the Dominican Republic's 4-1 win over the Netherlands Monday night at AT&T Park.
Fernando Rodney's "Lucky Platano" was a big source of amusement after the win, especially after he took the fruit out to the field with him during the pregame introductions. But this tournament is serious business to the Dominicans, who came up short in 2009 because of a pair of losses to the Netherlands that year.
"It's not what you do in the big leagues," Cano said, referring to what he called the D.R.'s "rally platano" for the key fifth inning. "But here, it's like you're playing winter ball right now. You're playing your way, going out and having fun."
This year, the ultra-talented Cano has stepped into more of a leadership role, often speaking to the team before games -- following manager Tony Peña -- to stress the magnitude of what the D.R. is trying to do.
"If there's something I can say to help, I'll always say something," Cano said. "But I'm the kind of guy that doesn't talk too much. When you talk too much, nobody's going to listen to you."
The day after Puerto Rico pulled off a 3-1 upset of Japan, the Dominicans looked shaky early. Starter Edinson Volquez walked the first two batters, and after a wild pitch, the Netherlands scored on Wladimir Balentien's groundout.
In the fifth, the D.R.'s Carlos Santana and Moises Sierra hit back-to-back doubles to tie the score before Reyes punched a sinking liner into centerfield for the go-ahead single.
Standing on first, Reyes waved his arms to fire up the Dominican dugout and flashed the claw (or spotlight) he often did during his final season with the Mets. He wasn't through, either. After getting to third on Miguel Tejada's hit -- yes, that Miguel Tejada -- Reyes appeared to spook the new reliever, Tom Stuifbergen, into allowing another run.
When Reyes dashed down the line for a huge lead, Stuifbergen threw his first pitch wild. It went to the backstop, and Reyes sprinted home. Cano then earned the first of his two intentional walks and Edwin Encarnacion tacked on an RBI single.
That got the party started for the Dominicans, but win or lose Tuesday, Cano soon must return to reality -- the 24/7 full-court press that is life around the Yankees, with the daily grind and the inevitable discussion about his pending free agency.
That's part of the reason Cano has been enjoying this tournament so much. He not only is surrounded by teammates and countrymen such as Reyes and Hanley Ramirez but has lived a relatively calm existence, free from clubhouse access by reporters and relentless scrutiny.
"Well, both are, I would say, my job," Cano said before the game. "But right now, we're talking about the WBC. And when I get back to spring training, it's going to be a different story."
The D.R. does things a little more loosely than a major-league camp, but so far, it's working. And no one has done it better than Cano, who was 1-for-2 Monday night and is batting .517 (15-for-29) with four doubles, two homers and six RBIs.
"I have to feel blessed to get to play with him," Reyes said. "He's a superstar and makes me better. He makes everybody around him better."