Throughout his return to Yankee Stadium, Robinson Cano has maintained that the negative reaction from fans hasn't affected him.
He said he didn't hear the taunts of "You Sold Out!" on Tuesday night, and he added that the less vitriolic but at times loud booing Thursday night didn't distract him. He said he didn't even hear the smattering of cheers.
Standing in front of his locker, Cano finally took a moment to clarify: It's not that he's apathetic. It's that it doesn't matter. Boos or no boos, these are the fans and the field with which he grew up.
"I got to see the fans," he said after the Mariners' 4-2 win over the Yankees. "And I don't care if they boo me or not. I'm just happy to be playing in front of them and see my ex-teammates, managers I've played with for six, seven years. It's all about seeing them again and, like I said, being back in the Stadium that I played in when I was coming up and where I learned."
Cano signed a 10-year, $240- million contract with the Mariners in the offseason, turning down the Yankees' seven-year, $175-million offer. On Thursday night, he lost no time in reminding the announced 43,121 in attendance just what the Yankees let walk out the door, drilling Hiroki Kuroda's fastball to right for a first-inning double that opened the scoring. In the third, he hit into a forceout, with Brad Miller scoring on the play for Cano's second RBI.
But in the fifth, he ran to first at half-speed on a grounder that Brian Roberts bobbled before recovering for the out.
With a runner on first and two outs in the bottom of the sixth, Cano fielded a grounder and, rather than throwing to first, he made a backhand flip to an empty bag at second. Miller caught it but was unable to step on second, and his throw to first was late. Cano's error was followed by Brian McCann's RBI single, which cut the Mariners' lead to two runs.
Seattle manager Lloyd McClendon exonerated Cano for making the toss. "Brad should've been there," he said. "You can't take for granted that he's going to first there."
And later, in another vote of confidence: " just like I thought he was going to," McClendon said. "Like a professional . . . I thought he was very gracious."
Cano went 2-for-9 with three RBIs and two strikeouts in the rain-shortened two-game series. The fans' reaction to him was mixed, but it veered toward the negative. Thursday night's paled significantly when compared with the one on Tuesday night, when angry reactions from the sparse crowd echoed through the cavernous stadium nearly every time Cano was near the ball.
"Like I said, it's not going to be a distraction for me," he said. "I didn't notice."
But doesn't the reception bother him, especially after nine productive years?
"Honestly, no," he said. And then, as if to mount a defense, he added, "You have to understand the fans . . . "
He quickly reverted to the same stock phrase he's used all week: "It's not something I can control. It's not going to be a distraction for me."