Robinson Cano found about a dozen ways to say, I’m not thinking about it.
Not thinking about his expiring contract, not thinking about whether the Yankees can afford him beyond this season, and not thinking about whether he’d be open to a mid-season extension.
“I’m going to be honest with you guys,” Cano said. “I’m just focused right now on the season. Just prepare myself, get ready for the season and help the team win another championship. I’m not thinking about anything (about the contract). Those kind of things, I’ll just let my agent, Scott (Boras), handle it. I’ll just have fun in the clubhouse and get ready to help the team win another championship.”
Cano deflected basically every question about his pending free agency. He did say he’d like to stay with the Yankees — “Why not?” he said — but his comments didn’t go much deeper than that, other than this one:
“It’s not about the money,” he said.
Clearly it is about the money. It can’t possibly be about anything else unless it’s the length of a deal, which is itself a money issue. Cano said he loves New York and considers his teammates family. The Yankees recognize that Cano’s their best player at a position where offensive value is hard to find. Cano’s ability to make money, and the Yankees freedom to spend it are the only issues in this scenario.
“I think you always worry a little bit about guys during contract years,” Joe Girardi said. “Sometimes it really works out to your advantage too. That’s one of those things. But you don’t want guys to put too much pressure on themselves. … Just knowing Robbie’s personality, I think it helps him out in this situation. It’s not too often we don’t see Robbie have a smile on his face.”
Oh, Cano has plenty of reasons to smile. Will the Yankees?
• Ichiro Suzuki’s fantastic comment about his first day of Yankees spring training: “I came and Derek Jeter was not the eater that the media portrayed him to be,” Ichiro said. “It was good to see him that way.” Zing!
• But seriously, how did Jeter look? “I thought he looked okay,” Girardi said. “From everything I’ve heard, and everything I’ve seen, I thought he took his groundballs, he moved, he turned some double plays, and it’s kind of what I expected to see right now. There’s a plan that we’ll increase a little bit each day and get stronger each day, and we’ll get him in a game when we can get him in a game.”
• Quick injury update: The Post reported today that Mark Montgomery was scratched yesterday because of a back injury. Girardi said it’s back spasms and Montgomery is expected to miss only “a few days.” Doesn’t sound serious, but it’s the first real spring training injury, and it’s to a guy who’s highly touted and pretty close to the big leagues.
• Today’s talk about Cano seemed like a good time to ask Girardi whether he knew for sure where Cano would bat in this restructured Yankees lineup. Is he locked into third? Fourth? Is he the guy the lineup builds around? “Being the focal point, you do have to think about where you want him,” Girardi said. “But it has to work, in a sense, with all the other eight guys in the lineup. Do we have some different ideas about where we could put him? We sure do. And we’ve talked about some different ideas. We’ll have to figure it out by opening day but we got plenty of time.”
• It was a similar no-such-luck answer to a question about whether Ichiro will be at the top of the order or at the bottom. “That’s another piece that we’re going to have to see exactly where it fits with the other guys and how we’re going to do it,” Girardi said. “There’s question marks that have to be answered. We assume that Derek is going to be healthy, but what if he isn’t? That could change the lineup and how we do it. So you’ve got to see where we are about March 25 (or) March 26 before you really put this all together.”
• Another light-hearted moment from today: Jeter told the writers that, if things go well tomorrow, he’ll be cleared to play in the World Baseball Classic. “See how you guys run with that story,” Jeter said. “Go ask Cashman and Girardi if they knew about me playing the WBC.” I don’t think anyone fell for it, but Jeter got a kick out of the idea.
• I strictly watched batting practice and fielding drills on the main field, which means I missed Mark Teixeira, Kevin Youkilis and the outfielders. Based on what I saw, though, Travis Hafner was the first Yankees player to go deep on this first day of full-squad workouts. He sent three pitches in a row way out to right field during the opening round of BP. Grant, it’s only BP, but Hafner is a big, big guy who really pulls the ball with a ton of power.
• Another random workout observation: Eduardo Nunez made two errors in the span of about 10 groundballs today. He and Jeter were at shortstop with Cano and Jayson Nix at second. Those four were taking turns going through double play drills.
• The most pressing issue of the day: Jeter said he had to use a scooter to get around this winter. Was he talking about one of those big motorized scooters? “No, man,” Jeter said. “You put your leg on it, your knee on it, and you roll it with your other leg. It’s not a motorized scooter. I’m not handicapped. It’s just easier than crutches.”
Associated Press photos