Confident Cano does it all

  • Article by: JOE CHRISTENSEN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: April 10, 2007 - 10:46 PM

The Yankees second baseman, named for Jackie Robinson, reminds his manager of Robbie Alomar and Rod Carew.

Players all over baseball will honor Jackie Robinson's legacy Sunday by wearing his retired jersey number, 42.

Yankees second baseman Robinson Cano honors the man who broke baseball's color barrier every day with his first name.

Cano's father picked Robinson for his son's name when the rising hitting star was born 24 years ago in the Dominican Republic.

On Tuesday, before New York's 10-1 victory over the Twins, Cano smiled broadly when asked how much Jackie Robinson means to him.

"I think not only for me, but for a lot of people in baseball," Cano said. "He opened the door for Latins, Japanese -- people not from the States to play ball. I think everybody's proud of Jackie Robinson."

Sunday is the 60th anniversary of Robinson's first game with the Brooklyn Dodgers. The commissioner's office has granted permission for players such as Twins center fielder Torii Hunter to wear No. 42 that day, and Cano said he'd like to wear it, too.

He'd certainly be another deserving candidate, as the Twins witnessed again Tuesday. Cano went 2-for-5 with a double, leaving his batting average at .313.

Last year, Cano and teammate Derek Jeter challenged Twins catcher Joe Mauer for the batting title, and Cano did it despite missing 35 games because of a hamstring injury.

Mauer finished at .347, Jeter at .343 and Cano at .342.

"I'm happy for Mauer because he was there all year," Cano said. "It's a battle, and especially for him -- he's got to catch nine innings."

The Yankees figure that won't be the only batting race Cano finds himself in during his career.

"He reminds me of two people -- a combination of Robbie Alomar and Rod Carew," Yankees manager Joe Torre said. "There's no rush for [Cano]. He's got a lot of confidence in his ability. He's got enormous ability defensively, too. He's done a lot of great things."

Carew, of course, won seven batting titles for the Twins.

"He's not nearly as selective as Rodney was, that's for sure," Torre said. "But I think he's got an upside. One of these days, he's going to hit a lot of home runs."

Cano, a lefthanded hitter, swatted 14 home runs as a rookie in 2005 and hit 15 last year.

With all of their other offensive weapons, the Yankees have the luxury of batting Cano in the bottom third of their batting order. He batted seventh Tuesday, one spot ahead of former Twins first baseman Doug Mientkiewicz.

Yankees center fielder Johnny Damon said Cano actually might be the best pure hitter in the team's lineup.

"He squares up the ball better than anybody," Damon said. "And as he grows, he'll start developing more patience at the plate. But the way he hits, it's amazing. He's so strong. We know how good he is, so we just hope one day he remembers us."

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