Mariano Rivera softens comments on Robinson Cano

Mariano Rivera (42) and Robinson Cano (24) celebrate Mariano Rivera (42) and Robinson Cano (24) celebrate after a game against the Minnesota Twins on Friday, July 12, 2013, in New York. Photo Credit: AP / Frank Franklin II

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Known for his eloquence in throwing a pitch known as the cutter and for getting out of a jam, Mariano Rivera on Monday demonstrated the latter, applied to a verbal variety of the former, during a 90-minute taping for the YES Network "CenterStage" show.

Early in the this-is-your-life interview with Michael Kay, Rivera was asked about a statement in his just-released book, "The Closer," that appeared to take a swipe at former Yankees teammate Robinson Cano.

In the book, Rivera questioned Cano's "passion" and said that, in a must-win situation, he would prefer Dustin Pedroia, the Red Sox's scrappy second baseman, to Cano as a teammate.

Rivera did not speak to reporters before or after the taping. To Kay, he did not deny the Cano judgment but explained it away as an admiration for Pedroia's maximum use of lesser inherent skills, reflecting what Rivera cast as a theme of his book: "There are tough times when people believe they don't have a chance," Rivera said, yet they can overcome great obstacles.

"Robby has so much natural talent," Rivera said on the show of Cano, who left the Yankees to sign a 10-year, $240-million contract with Seattle. "And when we see Robby, people mistake him not running hard to first base, not diving for the ball . . .

"But on the other hand, you see a Pedroia -- 5-4? 5-5? 5-7? You see this guy and he has to fight for every game, for every team that he has played for . . . He has the heart of a lion."

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Rivera said he often urged Cano to make full use of his talent. "I always told him, not only running but hitting," Rivera said. "Sometimes, bases loaded, no outs, and here's Robby swinging at the first pitch.

"I told him, 'As a pitcher, I want you to do that. But as a teammate, I don't want you to do that.' "

Rivera also said he spoke "many, many times" to Alex Rodriguez, "wanting him to do what is right," and that "you have to be there for him to make sure he doesn't go through this again."

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