“He says, ‘(Chris) Stewart has more RBIs than you, and he plays less games,’” Cano said.
Nunez certainly wasn’t the only one making the joke. Cano was one of the best hitters in baseball the past two seasons, but he’s been as productive as a backup catcher this year. Yesterday’s grand slam doubled his season home run and RBI totals – he and Stewart were actually tied with four RBIs apiece – and finally gave him some reason to smile.
“You’ve got to go with whatever God gives you,” Cano said. “The last three years I’ve been good. I can’t complain about it. Sometimes you’re not going to be the same guy all the time. We’re human and we’re going to go through tough situations. … It doesn’t bother me. I know it’s a long season. I know I’m human. I’m not going to be perfect all the time. This is a situation that’s going to make you stronger and a better player.”
Cano is hitting .261/.306/.383 this year. With runners in scoring position, he’s hitting .138 and had only one extra-base hit in those situations before yesterday’s homer. Cano and Nunez worked out together this offseason, and Nunez has said it was Cano who pushed him to get up early every day. Cano showed up in shape, he’s in the cage constantly, and there was little reason to expect this sort of slow start.
“You go home and work hard, you expect at least every month to get at least 20 RBIs,” Cano said. “Especially when you hit third or fourth or fifth, you’re going to hit a lot of time with men on base.”
So far, the results haven’t been there, but the track record is too significant and too convincing for the Yankees to simply dump Cano to the bottom of the order. They need him to hit. They need him to be productive. To need him to keep telling Nunez what he told him after the grand slam yesterday: “Now, I’m on top.”
“We know he’s a little bit behind of where we expected him to be at this time of the year,” Joe Girardi said. “But he’s not the only hitter in major league baseball that’s a little bit behind. He’ll catch up.”
Associated Press photo