Robinson Cano already in midseason form at plate

Dominican Republic's Robinson Cano celebrates after hitting a Dominican Republic's Robinson Cano celebrates after hitting a solo home run in the fifth inning. (March 10, 2013) Photo Credit: AP

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MIAMI -- Save some for the Red Sox, Robby.

Two weeks from Opening Day, Robinson Cano already seems to be in midseason form, based on his performance at the World Baseball Classic. Cano scooped up his second MVP trophy in as many rounds Saturday as he helped keep the Dominican Republic undefeated (6-0) en route to the semifinals in San Francisco.

Cano delivered a broken-bat single as part of an eighth-inning rally that pushed the DR past Puerto Rico, 2-0, in Saturday's seeding game at Marlins Park. In six games, Cano is batting .519 (14-for-27) with four doubles, two homers and six RBIs.

The Yankees have to be thrilled, as long as Cano survives the last three days of the WBC, which continues Sunday at AT&T Park in San Francisco. Remember, it was this tournament -- or at least the Phoenix tuneup for it -- that felled Mark Teixeira, who strained his wrist hitting off a tee. Cano is going to have to be at his superhuman best to make up for the loss of Teixeira and Curtis Granderson, both of whom are expected out until mid-May.

"I'm not going to think about that," Cano said. "You win as a team, you lose as a team, so it's not about one guy. It has to be the whole team, because for me to drive guys in, guys have to get on base."

Last October, Cano's struggles at the plate (3-for-40) dragged the Yankees to a quick ALCS exit, courtesy of the Tigers' four-game sweep. Even with all the risk associated with the WBC, maybe that added intensity could benefit Cano, who probably feels as if the regular season began last week.

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When asked if this early surge could lead to a running start for Opening Day, he was optimistic.

"Hopefully," he said. "You can't predict anything. I think I feel good at the plate. Thank God everything has come my way and the team's way."

The D.R.'s luck this past month has been considerably better than the Yankees', and Cano appears to be enjoying every minute of it. During the postgame news conference, Cano was asked about beating out his teammate, Fernando Rodney, for the MVP trophy.

Rodney has pitched in all six of the D.R.'s games and has saved five, including three in the Miami round alone. Cano's explanation? He said he's more handsome than Rodney, and that was the deciding factor. The joke brought big laughs from the Spanish-speaking media corps and smiles from Cano and Rodney.

"I cannot pitch," Cano added.

It's the only thing he hasn't done so far. That lighter side of Cano is not often seen back in New York, where the day-to-day scrutiny with the Yankees is fierce and unrelenting. Cano also gets plenty of attention from the Dominican fans, who filled up Marlins Park, but that's more like unconditional adoration.

"You feel like you're playing winter ball," Cano said. "You look in the crowd, you see the flag, you see all the fans. You see the green banana. So it makes you feel like you're home and you don't want to let your fans down."

The "green banana" is a reference to plantains, or platano, which are a symbol for the Dominicans. Their slogan is "Platano Power," kind of a fruit-filled rallying cry.

It's working here in the States, too. By virtue of Saturday's win, the D.R. is off Sunday before facing the Netherlands Monday. When that starts up, Cano will be shooting for the MVP hat trick.

"We are watching one of the elite players, offensively and defensively, in the game," Puerto Rico manager Edwin Rodriguez said. "He wants to show the world that Latin Americans, they know how to play. You have to tip your hat to him."

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