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SportsColumnistsAnthony Rieber

Running out grounder hurts an older Robinson Cano

Robinson Cano of the Mets leaves a game

Robinson Cano of the Mets leaves a game against the Nationals before the start of the fourth inning at Citi Field on Wednesday. Credit: Jim McIsaac

It’s one of those things you might have seen in passing on your Twitter feed or might have only half-heard if you were listening to or watching the Mets-Nationals game on Wednesday night:

“Robinson Cano has been replaced at second base by Adeiny Hechavarria to start the fourth inning.”

Uh-oh. Was that Cano who grounded out to short to end the bottom of the third? Did he jog to first again? Or did he get injured doing what so many have called for over the last week?

With two outs and a man on second against Max Scherzer, Cano busted it down the line on what looked off the bat as it could have been an RBI single to center.

But Trea Turner was stationed up the middle and Cano was out by a couple of steps. And then he was done, out of the Mets’ 6-1 victory over the Nationals with tightness in his left quad.

 Callaway said Cano had an MRI during the game and would be evaluated on Thursday. Cano was unavailable for comment after the game.

 “He took a few hard steps out of the box,” Callaway said. “Got about halfway down the line and it grabbed at him.”

The wisecracks write themselves. We’ll spare you any here because it’s just too easy. And unfair to Cano, who in his prime was a great player who didn’t run hard to first all the time.

That tendency was an annoyance to many, and may have contributed to the Yankees’ decision to get outbid by the Mariners by about $65 million for Cano’s services after the 2013 season.

It was also totally irrelevant to Cano’s worth as a player.

In his age 24-33 seasons with the Yankees and Mariners, Cano averaged 159.4 regular season games. That’s over a 10-year span. That’s a lot of durability in exchange for an occasional lack of hustle. You shake your head, wag your finger and live with it.

Yes, manager Mickey Callaway said he benched Cano on Monday in part because he loafed on two recent double-play balls. But Cano said he thought it was a regular day off against a tough lefty. It was a p.r. move more than a disciplinary one.

The problem for the Mets is Cano is not age 24 to 33. He’s 36. He’s played like he’s 56 in his short time with in Flushing. Not running hard to first became an issue because there is no massive production coming from No. 24 to help you overlook it.

After going hitless in two at-bats Wednesday, Cano left with a .241 batting average and a .658 OPS. Cano’s career OPS going into this season was .848, so that’s a ton of thump the Mets haven’t gotten from Brodie Van Wagenen’s first big acquisition as general manager.

It’s an acquisition I wouldn’t have made for a few reasons. None of them is about running hard to first base. The main red flag were Cano’s advancing age, declining production and 80-game PED suspension last season.

In recent days, the Mets have suffered injuries to Cano, Michael Conforto, Brandon Nimmo, Jeff McNeil, Seth Lugo and the already injured Jed Lowrie and Yoenis Cespedes.

All but McNeil and Cano are on the injured list and Cano may be headed there, too. Luis Guillorme was pulled from Triple-A Syracuse’s game and should be at Citi Field before Thursday’s 12:10 p.m. series finale, if needed.

The Mets have won three in a row over Washington, and Hechavarria started Wednesday’s six-run rally in the eighth with a double.

So Cano can take his time coming back. And then take his time running to first when he is back if that’s what he needs to do to stay in the lineup this year and over the four years still left on his $240 million contract. Outrunning Father Time is Cano’s larger worry.

New York Sports