Mariners' new star lifts spring average to .600 in return from surprise root canal
PEORIA, Ariz. -- Anyone wondering what Robinson Cano was up to while sidelined following a recent root canal need wonder no more: He was hitting black beans with a broomstick, of course.
With Mariners trainers keeping the prized offseason acquisition out of baseball activities as he recovered from the dental procedure, Cano couldn't handle being out of baseball mode very long. So while at his spring home, he went to his drill of taking a few swings with a broom handle and working on keeping his eye on the … bean.
"You have to always keep your eye on the beans because they're little, too," Cano explained. "You have to follow it all the way. … That's what you want in the game. You have to follow it all the way."
Not that he needed any fine-tuning; Cano's swing with a bat continued to work wonders connecting with baseballs Monday. In his first game back after missing four days following the unscheduled root canal, Cano went 3-for-3 with singles to all three fields in the Mariners' 8-2 loss to the Royals.
And perhaps the Mariners -- and baseball coaches everywhere -- should be placing orders for brooms and beans about now.
"That's a pretty good one," Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon said when told of Cano's bean routine. "Maybe I ought to have all the rest of the players do the same thing."
Cano, signed to a 10-year, $240 million deal this winter, was just glad he was on the real field again Monday, back with his new teammates. After an infected tooth was detected during a normal cleaning last week, he underwent the root canal last Wednesday afternoon and had been out of action since.
"Good thing it happened here," Cano said. "Now I won't have to miss any games in the season."
The first day back on the Cactus League field featured plenty of action for the team's new superstar, starting with a slick start of a double play to end the first inning and continuing into the bottom half of the frame with a sharp single to right-center off Royals starter James Shields.
After his second hit of the day in the fourth, Cano's day got even more interesting when Shields pulled off a rare pickoff at third, using a move that left Cano standing several feet off the bag as third baseman Mike Moustakas applied the tag.
"You don't want to look bad, but he got everybody, even the third-base coach," Cano said. "At least we know now."
Picking up some information about Shields' sly move was just one thing Cano accomplished in his first game back. He played into the sixth inning, replaced by a pinch-runner to the applause of the Mariners' faithful after his third single. Along the way, he continued to display leadership, taking some time to discuss positioning with Minor League first baseman Jeff Zimmerman during a pitching change.
But the thing that stood out most was just how locked in his famously smooth swing continues to be this spring. He now has nine singles in 15 at-bats for a tidy .600 average, and his Monday showing proved that a few days off the field didn't exactly affect his stroke.
"I guess not," Cano said, playfully. "It feels good at the plate. I'm not trying to do too much. In Spring Training, I like to work on my swing, middle-away, not trying to pull or get out front of it. Like I always say, I'm not a home run guy."
McClendon was clearly glad to see that Cano was not only back in action, but back in action with a purpose.
"He swung the bat pretty good," McClendon said. "Robby's a very talented player. He really cares. It showed today. He played with some passion, and I thought he swung the bat pretty good."
When Cano went to the dentist last week, he didn't expect to undergo a serious procedure. But once the diagnosis came in, he and the Mariners' medical staff agreed it would be better to address the situation now than have it create a problem during the regular season.
He wasn't allowed to take real batting practice until Sunday, leaving him to swing his broomstick at beans -- doing something, anything to keep his baseball mind and body active.
"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."
John Schlegel is a national reporter for MLB.com. You can follow him on Twitter at @JohnSchlegelMLB.