SEATTLE — Robinson Cano said the Yankees have become a team with which he is not familiar.
“They’ve always been a team that has those superstar players, guys that have been in the league [a long time],” the Mariners second baseman said Monday before the start of a three-game series against his former team at Safeco Field. “I remember when I came up [in 2005], I was 22 and everybody was 29, 30, 31.”
That’s not to say Cano, a Yankee from 2005-13 before signing a 10-year, $240-million contract with Seattle before the 2014 season, was casting aspersions on the Yankees’ sudden all-in movement toward youth at the trade deadline.
Far from it.
“They have such great talent,” he said. “A great group of kids, they have guys that can be pretty good. If you look in the past, they’ve traded a lot of people who went to another team and became everyday players. So we’ll see what happens.”
Among the players who mentored Cano when he came up in 2005 was Alex Rodriguez, who recently, as you may have heard, was released. The two were close as teammates and have remained so.
“We’ve been in contact like always,” Cano said. “He’s one of the guys that helped show me how to play the game when I first came up. No matter what, I’m always going to appreciate everything that he has done for me.”
Of the Yankees’ handling of A-Rod in his final week with the club, Cano shrugged. “They handled it the way they think was right, but I know Alex, and nobody would like being released during the middle of the season,” he said. “But whatever it is, you have to understand this is a business.”
Cano, who has hit 28 homers this season and 267 in his career, said “I don’t know” if Rodriguez will play again. He thought about A-Rod stepping away from the game with 696 career homers and smiled.
“I would love to see him get 700 home runs,” Cano said. “As a kid, you dream, you want to hit 500, [and he’s] so close to 700 . . . If I was him, I would play, because it’s only four. If you say 20, 25 away [that’s different], but it’s only four home runs.”
But if A-Rod chooses to fulfill the adviser/instructor role hammered out between him and managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner, Cano said he will be “really good, I would say great” at it.
“He has a lot of knowledge about the game,” he said. “He’s one of those guys that worked so hard every single day, was always in shape. I mean, this is a guy you never heard complain. Always loved the game, and you want a guy like that around the kids.”
Cano’s current team has been among the surprises in the American League to this point of the season, in large part because of the second baseman.
His third season with Seattle has been his best by far in the Pacific Northwest. Cano, healthy after offseason surgery to fix a sports hernia that troubled him much of 2015, took a .290/.345/.520 slash line into Monday night’s game. The Mariners entered the night 66-57, one game behind Baltimore for the second wild-card spot.
What does Cano think about the Yankees, who entered Monday night three games behind the Mariners, chasing his team?
“For me, it’s kind of like seeing anyone else, because you know you have to win,” Cano said. “It doesn’t matter who it is.”
He smiled again.
“And you don’t want to look back and see who’s behind you,” he said. “You want to see who’s ahead of you.”