PEORIA, Ariz. – Phoenix area stores might want to prepare themselves for a run on broom handles and black beans, because if Robinson Cano continues to hit like he did Monday that strange combination might become the new big-league training tool.
After missing four days of game action while recovering from a root canal, Cano returned to the Mariners’ lineup Monday and was better than ever. The all-star second baseman came to the plate three times and singled three times — not bad for a guy who was stuck in his house three of the past four days.
“I guess not,” Cano said, chuckling. “It feels good at the plate. I’m not trying to do too much. In spring training, I like to work on my swing, go middle-away, not trying to pull or get out front of it.”
Cano’s swing is a crafted and honed thing of efficiency. But the success was impressive considering he was told to stay home for the first two days after the root canal and wasn’t allowed to do anything but swing lightly on the third day. Sunday was his first full workout since the procedure.
But Cano didn’t exactly sit still while he was stuck in his house. He took his own form of batting practice.
He took a broom handle that’s cut down to be about the size of a bat and he took swings at dry black beans that were tossed to him from “20 to 40 feet.”
“I had to keep my eyes on the beans because you know they’re so little,” he explained. “You have to follow them all the way. That’s what you want in the game. You want to follow the pitch all the way.”
Because a broomstick isn’t very thick and has no barrel, it made it even more difficult to hit the beans.
“It wasn’t easy,” he said.
Most players would gladly enjoy those days off from the grind of spring training to lounge by the pool or catch up on sleep. Cano, instead, was doing something children would do to stay occupied.
“I love this game,” Cano said. “This is what I know how to do. It’s not easy for me to sit at home all day not doing anything.”
When told of Cano’s unique home-training technique, manager Lloyd McClendon could only chuckle.
“That’s a pretty good one,” he said. “Maybe I ought to have all the rest of the players do the same thing.”
Cano already has been working with Justin Smoak and others, imparting wisdom about hitting and winning. Maybe the beans and broomsticks are next.
“I’m one of the guys that has the most service time in the big leagues,” he said. “I don’t know who else has won a championship here. I was on a team that missed the playoffs just twice in nine years. I grew up in an organization where everybody else was — I don’t want to say older than me — but guys who had been in the league and had been successful, had won a lot of championships.”
Cano won’t be offering baserunning tips. He was picked off third base by Royals’ starter James Shields in the fourth inning of an 8-2 defeat Monday. It was the only mistake he made in the game and a minor one considering the circumstances.
“He’s got a good move. He got me in New York but threw it away,” he said.
Shields totally stunned Cano at third. Cano didn’t even move when third baseman Mike Moustakas caught the ball and tagged him out. McClendon wondered if it was a balk and discussed it with third-base umpire Brian Knight.
“I know it’s spring training, but you don’t ever want to look bad,” he said. “But he got everybody, even the third-base coach. At least we know now.”
Cano also knows now that going to the dentist often isn’t a bad thing. He went to have his teeth cleaned after the game Wednesday. During the routine procedure, the dental hygienist noticed something wrong with one of Cano’s back teeth.
“She was like, ‘How long since you’ve been to the dentist.’ I said, ‘Last year,’ ” Cano recalled. “She said it has an infection.”
They did an X-ray and recommended the root canal. Cano notified the Mariners’ trainers and they said to have the procedure.
“She said you better do it now,” he said. “Good thing it happened here, so I didn’t have to miss any games.”
And thanks to a broomstick and black beans, he didn’t miss any pitches in his return.
Ryan Divish: 206-464-2373 or firstname.lastname@example.org.