About 4 1/2 hours before the first pitch Sunday, Robinson Cano was in the cage on the field, taking cuts at underhand tosses. Even though the balls were coming in softly, they were going out hard, some even reaching the rightfield seats.
Consider it an early start toward correcting a poor start. Cano entered Sunday night's game batting .229 with no home runs and one RBI. In the case of Cano, a leading Most Valuable Player candidate last year, it could not be written off as a routine sluggish start in the manner of Mark Teixeira, who almost always has a cold April and began the game with a .188 average.
Cano usually comes out of the box hot. Last year, in March and April, he hit .320 with eight homers and 21 RBIs. The year before, the respective numbers were .400, eight and 18. In 2009, it was .366, five and 16. He said Saturday that it is just one of those slides that happen every year, one that just happened to come at the beginning this season.
Manager Joe Girardi said eight games is too small a sample. "Robbie is a guy who is going to spray the ball all over the place," he said, "and we want him to continue to do that. Just keep swinging the bat and that [slump] will change."
Cano had a double, a single and two walks and scored three runs Sunday night in the Yankees' 11-5 victory over the Angels, lifting his average to .263.
Teixeira on his rough April: "Not that I'm not impatient, I am getting a little impatient, but at the same time, I've been through it plenty of times before." He had an RBI double and a single Sunday night . . . Brett Gardner was back in the lineup after missing Saturday's game with flu symptoms . . . David Phelps said he worked out and felt good after his 51/3-inning relief stint Saturday. Girardi said it probably will take three days of rest before he can pitch in a game again . . . Angels reliever Jason Isringhausen, the former Met, is one of the few still playing to be involved in the Jackie Robinson 50th anniversary ceremony at Shea Stadium 15 years ago Sunday.