Robinson Cano, ignores criticisms made by Yankees hitting coach

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CanoAfter their fourth consecutive losing season, the Seattle Mariners were determined to add Robinson Cano’s bat to their lineup. They also want to show him they’re willing to go to bat for him.

Before and after Cano’s first workout of the spring Tuesday, manager Lloyd McClendon took to task New York Yankees hitting coach Kevin Long, who criticized the five-time All-Star for his failure to run out routine grounders.

“I was very disappointed,” McClendon said of Long’s comments to the New York Daily News. “I’ve been in this game a long time, and one thing I was taught is you worry about your players, getting them ready, and not players on other teams. Disappointed, surprised. I didn’t know if he was the spokesman for the New York Yankees.”

Cano spent nine seasons with the Yankees before signing a 10-year, $240 million contract – tied for the third largest in baseball history – to join the Mariners.

Sporting a beard, which he wasn’t allowed to grow as a Yankee, and wearing the unfamiliar Mariners colors – officially, blue and Northwest green – Cano sidestepped a question about Long during a news conference that included three New York writers.

Instead, Cano tried to emphasize how pleased he is with the welcome he has received from his new club.

“All I can tell you is I’m happy to be here, excited,” Cano said when asked if he’s past the disappointment of the Yankees’ refusal to increase their seven-year, $175 million offer to keep him.

“It’s even more fun than I thought, the way I’ve been embraced by teammates, the coaching staff, manager, the front office. I feel like I’m part of the team right away. It’s not going to take me too long to get used to this uniform and this team.”

The bigger issue might be how long it takes him to get used to playing for an also-ran. Cano reached the postseason seven times with New York, winning the 2009 World Series.

The Mariners have not made the playoffs since 2001 and finished fourth in the American League West eight times in the last 10 years.

Despite the addition of outfielders/first basemen Corey Hart and Logan Morrison, plus closer Fernando Rodney, their prospects for contending look dim, although they could still boost their chances with free agents Nelson Cruz and Ervin Santana still on the market.

“I don’t want to say we’re close (to contending),” Cano said, “but I know we have a club that can compete.”

The Mariners have stockpiled prospects in recent years and have two promising pitchers in Taijuan Walker and James Paxton, plus an up-and-coming catcher in Mike Zunino. Their outfield is unsettled, though, as is the rotation beyond Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma.

What Cano represents, both for the Mariners’ players and their dwindling fan base, is a commitment by the club to put a better product on the field.

“It’s about time for us,” Hernandez said. “After what happened in the Super Bowl with the Seahawks, it’s time for us too.”

Title aspirations this year may be far-fetched, but Cano brings a championship pedigree and leadership skills that became evident as the captain of the Dominican Republic team that won last year’s World Baseball Classic.

Cano said he expects to put those skills to work in Seattle.

“I want to share with those young guys all the things I learned back in New York,” Cano said, “all the good experiences I had, what it takes to make the playoffs and what it takes to win the championship.”

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