When Joe Girardi posted the Yankees lineup this afternoon, Robinson Cano had one question for his manager.
Are you sure?
“I said, ‘Yeah, I’m sure,’” Girardi said.
Cano batted cleanup for the first time in his career and rewarded his manager’s confidence with a three-hit night that included the third grand slam of his career. For the past week the Yankees had struggled to put together big innings. Cano changed that with one swing.
“I was real surprised because A-Rod is the kind of guy that you never see him take a day off,” Cano said. “It’s always good to taste and feel what it’s like to be a cleanup hitter. It feels great. It means you’re more mature and get more experience.”
It’s hard to imagine where the Yankees might be without Cano. He’s played every game, and since the middle of April, he’s never gone more than back-to-back games without a hit. For a Yankees team that has battled injuries and prolonged slumps from its superstars, Cano has been the one constant, no matter where he’s hit in the order.
“He’s been a big part of our winning, definitely,” Girardi said. “And it’s not just his offense, it’s his defense as well. His defense has been excellent. He made a very tough play again tonight. He’s an all-around complete player and he’s been a big part of this.”
Girardi hit on quite a few topics tonight, so we’ll go with his postgame audio.
• Good news on Jorge Posada, who got a good report from Dr. Ahmad. Posada played catch today and he’s ready to begin motion exercises. Girardi said he could be hitting off a tee within a day or two.
• Phil Hughes was terrific tonight, and he did it primarily with his fastball and curveball, especially early in the game. Hughes noticed that the Indians were late on his four-seamer, and he thought going to the cutter might actually help them catch up, so he stayed with the hard stuff. He said going to his cutter too often has gotten him into trouble a few times this year, and he wants to keep it more of a complimentary pitch.
• One huge curveball from Hughes came in the fourth inning, when he struck out Luis Valbuena to strand runners at second and third. It was a full count, and the first thing Chad Moeller called was the curveball. “I was like, that’s a good idea,” Hughes said. He dropped it for a strike and Valbuena went down looking.
• Mark Teixeira at first base. You know the guy is good over there, and then he has a night like this that reminds you exactly how good he really is. “I’m not even sure what was the most impressive one,” Girardi said. “It might have been the one from Choo that kind of shot back. He was able to change the direction of his glove and his upper body. We’re used to seeing that but he seemed to get a lot more plays tonight.”
• Nick Swisher had his second home run in the past three games and he’s hitting .351 with seven home runs in May. He hit .164 with four home runs in his previous two Mays.
• Cano has 10 home runs this season, seven of them against lefties.
• Derek Jeter is batting .455 in his past five games.
• Curtis Granderson was encouraged by all of the stopping and going he did tonight. He chased a ball to the gap, went first to third, hit a double and one had to reverse direction after starting toward third base on a wild pitch. He said he’s not worried about the groin, just needs to make sure his legs are back to 100 percent. He said he was going to stretch one more time when he got home. “It’s just how the body comes back,” he said.
• Some minor league news: Five Tampa Yankees have been named to the Florida State League all-star game: C Mitch Abeita, OF Jack Rye, INF Corban Joseph and starting pitchers Adam Warren and Hector Noesi (who has already been called up to Double-A).
Associated Press photos of Cano and Hughes. By the way, if you’re wondering what Hughes’ curveball grip looks like, that’s it in the picture.