Last Updated: 9:27 AM, May 3, 2012
Posted: 2:32 AM, May 3, 2012
Four hours before last night’s 5-0 loss to the Orioles, Robinson Cano was on the field taking early batting practice. He was doing one of his favorite hitting drills, the home-run drill, with Yankees hitting coach Kevin Long.
When Cano is locked in during this drill, he hits home run after home run into the right-field seats and bleachers. Long stands halfway between the mound and home plate, rifling underhand pitches to Cano with a screen set across the middle of the plate to keep Cano’s swing compact.
That was not the case yesterday. There was the occasional home run, but those were mixed in with balls Cano pulled foul into the seats as a result of swinging too quickly or soft fly balls to right center as a result of being late on his swing.
His timing is off, and the Yankees are paying the price.
Cano’s struggles are one of the many disturbing issues plaguing the Yankees as they were embarrassed by the Orioles at Yankee Stadium, losing the series and scoring all of three runs against Buck Showalter’s club in the three games and being shut out the final 17 innings.
No, it’s not just the struggling young pitchers that are a problem for the Yankees on a night Ivan Nova finally lost, gave up five runs and saw his ERA rise to an ugly 5.58.
Cano’s numbers are startling. The No. 4 hitter has four RBIs this season; That’s the fewest RBIs he has ever had in one month. That’s four RBIs over 24 games. Ex-Met Carlos Beltran had seven RBIs last night alone.
Cano’s slugging percentage is down to .367, 166 points lower than his slugging percentage in 2011. He is batting .255 and his on-base percentage is .308. His lifetime batting average coming into the season was .308. His lifetime on-base percentage was .347. He went 1-for-4 last night and made the final out of the game.
Today marks the seventh anniversary of Cano’s Yankees debut, playing his first game on May 3, 2005. He has compiled 1,266 hits, 291 doubles and 612 RBIs as a second baseman. Each category is the most by a second baseman over that span, according to Elias Sports Bureau.
Perhaps, Cano, who can become a free agent after the 2013 season and has high-powered agent Scott Boras representing him, is thinking too much about his contract future, putting added pressure on himself. Perhaps, he is just in an early-season, cold-weather slump.
Facing the rotten Royals beginning tonight in Kansas City might get his swing back together.
Cano did not make himself available to the media before or after last night’s game. Joe Girardi said he has confidence Cano will come around, even making a joke to Cano when he visited the mound during Tuesday night’s 7-1 loss after Cano, in his previous at-bat, had lined out to center field.
“‘Look, Robbie, look at all the green out there,’’ Girardi said to Cano. “‘You happened to hit it right to where the guy was standing. How do you do that?’
“I tried to make light of it because it is frustrating when you hit the ball hard and you make outs,” Girardi said last night. “That will change. I guarantee you. I just think that he is missing his pitch. He’s just a tick off.’’
Cano could be paying the price for the hitters around him. No. 3 hitter Alex Rodriguez has shown little power and No. 5 Mark Teixeira is batting a horrid .226 and has been bothered by a bronchial infection all season.
Pitchers are pitching Cano that much more carefully, knowing he is the Yankee that must be stopped.
“When Robbie struggles, we’re all a little bit shocked,’’ Girardi admitted, comparing Cano’s consistency to Mariano Rivera’s. “We’re all looking for reasons and sometimes I think we all want to take the human element out of it.’’
Cano is human. He is the heart of the Yankees lineup. Until he gets right, the Yankees will struggle.
Robinson Cano usually makes the game look so easy, but nothing is coming easy to Cano or the Yankees these days.