Robinson Cano hoping for nice reception at Stadium, expects 'different' experience

Seattle Mariners' Robinson Cano concentrates during a plate

Seattle Mariners' Robinson Cano concentrates during a plate appearance on Tuesday, April 8, 2014, in the first inning of the Mariners' home opener. (Credit: AP / Ted S. Warren)

Robinson Cano searched his mental thesaurus over the weekend in Seattle to come up with words to describe how he thinks it'll go when he returns to Yankee Stadium on Tuesday night for the first time since leaving for a 10-year contract worth $240 million with the Mariners.

He tried out "weird" and "hard" and "tough" -- all with that trademark Cano smile -- before settling on "different."

"I would say it's going to be a little different, going back," he said. "You get to the parking lot, people know who you are. Now you've got to go to the visiting team locker room, different uniform, being on the other side. It's going to be a little different."

Cano comes back to face old pal CC Sabathia (against whom Cano is 1-for-3 lifetime) as the well-paid No. 3 hitter for the offensively challenged Mariners, who are ahead of only the Astros in nearly every hitting category in the American League.

Cano is batting .301 with one home run and 11 RBIs. The Mariners are 10-14 after snapping an eight-game losing streak Wednesday.

The first-place Yankees are doing fine without their former second baseman. They are 15-10, which was tied for the best mark in the American League entering Monday night's games.

Before hitting the Bronx on Tuesday afternoon, Cano appeared on Monday night's "The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon" -- those show business connections of agent Jay Z paying off, apparently.

As for the reaction he expects to get from Yankees fans, Cano said: "Hopefully, good. I left New York, but I left it in a good way. Thank God I never had any problems with nobody. Happy to go back to see the fans who saw me grow up coming up as a young player. Thanks to them the way they were to me for nine years. Hopefully, they understand that this is a business and I don't have anything against the fans, the team, anybody."

Cano has given conflicting answers about how he views the Yankees' efforts to keep him.

During the 2013 season, they broke their long-standing policy of not negotiating before a contract expires in an attempt to sign him before he became a free agent. But when it became apparent that Jay Z and Co. were looking for a record deal -- $300 million was floated and batted away by the Yankees -- talks were shelved until the season ended.

Cano put up another stellar year (.314, 27 homers, 107 RBIs) and got the massive offer from the desperate Mariners, who have had four straight losing seasons (averaging 93.5 losses) and were sinking into irrelevancy in the land of Nirvana and Starbucks.

The Yankees held firm at seven years and $175 million. Cano traded in the Empire State Building for the Space Needle. For once, a star player in his prime left the Yankees for more money.

"It's really hard because I was there nine years, we won a championship, we were always in the playoffs," he said. "It's tough."

Cano repeated something he has said a few times already, that he didn't think he got enough "respect" from the Yankees during contract talks.

But when asked by Newsday over the weekend if he thinks the Yankees wanted him back, he said: "If I think in my heart . . . you know, they made that [$175 million] offer. So I'd say yes."

Cano, 31, had 65 million reasons to choose Seattle -- the difference between the two offers. Still, he said, "I don't want to blame anybody."

What he wants to do is enjoy his return. He said he is looking forward to seeing his old teammates, including Derek Jeter, and spending time with friends and family he left behind.

Cano, who was criticized in New York for his laid-back demeanor in a way that confuses equally laid-back Seattleites, has cut one tie with his former town.

Asked if he still has a house in the New York area, the $240 million man who moved more than 2,400 miles away smiled and said: "Not anymore. A waste of money."

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