SEATTLE - Robinson Cano smiled because, really, that was all he could do. The question: Do you think the Yankees miss you in their lineup?
"You've got to ask them that question,'' Cano said.
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Unbeknownst to Cano, about 15 minutes earlier, a reporter asked a form of that question to Joe Girardi, who clearly wasn't in the mood for it.
"That's not a fair question,'' Girardi tersely replied.
The answer, of course, is, obviously the Yankees could use Cano, who left them in the offseason for the $240 million over 10 years the Mariners offered.
Entering last night, Cano was hitting .330 with a .381 on-base percentage. The second baseman has struggled to find his power stroke in the pitcher's park that is Safeco Field -- only two home runs -- but he still had 13 doubles, tied for most on the team, and 20 walks and 33 RBIs, second in both categories.
More important from Cano's perspective, his current team has outperformed his former one. The Mariners, almost universally predicted to be dreadful this season, entered Tuesday 34-29, 4½ games behind the AL West-leading A's. The Yankees were 31-31 and in third place behind the Blue Jays, featuring an offense that has been dreadful for nearly a month. They are in the midst of a six-game stretch in which they're 10-for-54 with runners in scoring position, including 1-for-17 in Sunday's 2-1 loss to the Royals.
"I don't want to say surprised because they've had a lot of guys that have gotten hurt,'' Cano said of the Yankees' difficulties, naming the injuries to Carlos Beltran, CC Sabathia and Ivan Nova. "You have a whole different lineup every single day. It's really hard.''
Before the game, Girardi again was asked about his struggling lineup, and, for the first time in a while, the possibility of dropping Derek Jeter from the two-hole. Jeter, since collecting four hits in his first four at-bats May 25 in Chicago against the White Sox, is in an 8-for-47 slide, his average falling to .254 and his OBP to .312.
"He's always been a guy that has responded during the course of time when people have been ready to say that we should move him and one year he ended up with 200-plus hits,'' Girardi said. "You know, you can look at Derek in the No. 2 slot, but we have a lot of guys that have struggled. Maybe because of his name he's going to be the focus more than other guys, but we've had a lot of guys struggle.''
Speaking before the game, Jeter said it's on him to help get the offense going.
"I always feel that way,'' Jeter said. "I always feel as though any time you're scuffling to score, you have to do a lot of little things, and a lot of the little things is my job, so I need to pick it up.''
Cano spoke extensively about Jeter before the game, saying the most memorable thing he learned from his longtime teammate (2005-13), with whom he hopes to team up at the All-Star Game, was his daily approach.
"You're going to remember the way he went about his business, you go to the stadium, he was always working, trying to be the best,'' Cano said. "One thing I always remember him saying was even if you get a contract, don't ever feel like you have your job secured. Always go out and fight for it. Never feel satisfied.''