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Focused Cano opens Mariners chapter

ANAHEIM -- As Robinson Cano prepared for his first Opening Day with the Mariners, the team's newest star acknowledged things are different after playing in eight openers with the Yankees. But the five-time All-Star second baseman wasn't worried about what was in his rear-view mirror.

"I've been in Spring Training with these guys for 50 days," Cano said prior to Monday night's opener with the Angels. "I'm just looking forward. I got used to the new team right away. This organization and teammates made me feel like I was part of this team. You're always looking forward to Opening Day. I just couldn't wait for that."

Cano did send a text to Derek Jeter earlier in the day, wishing him well in his final season with the Yankees. But his focus now is on a Mariners team looking to build around their $240 million second baseman.

"We've got some young kids that are hungry and love to play this game," Cano said. "We've got a good pitching staff and coaches. We've got a good team and are going to do pretty good things this year. But we've just got to go out there and play hard every single game."

Manager Lloyd McClendon has been thrilled with the way Cano has adapted to his new team, including his willingness to work with some of the young hitters. He introduced his "net drill" to several of his teammates, working with them on focusing to keep their hands in and not overextend by hitting with a net placed just off the outside of the plate.

"He came probably more than advertised as far as the quality of person and his desire to win and help young players on this team," McClendon said. "On a scale of one to 10, he's probably been a 15."

As for his talent level?

"Twenty," McClendon said with a laugh.

The 31-year-old said he's just extending players the same kind of treatment he got from older teammates on the Yankees like Jeter, Mariano Rivera and Alex Rodriguez.

"I was a young kid when I first came up, and guys took me under their wing and taught me how to play this game the right way," he said. "They gave me little things that helped. Those are the same things I'm trying to do with these guys, things that I learned and were passed on. Things that will help them not just this year, but in the long term."

Cano will have a lot of eyes on him as the Mariners' new star attraction, but McClendon isn't concerned that he'll struggle with any sort of pressure to live up to his huge 10-year contract.

"I think Robbie is different, because Robbie has made a ton of money in this game already," McClendon said. "He's been a big-time player for a long time. When you're really talking, what's the difference from 180 to 240? He's made money. He's not motivated by money. He's motivated to be the best second baseman in the game and that's pretty good."

Cano made $15 million in his last season with the Yankees before striking a deal with the Mariners that tied him with Albert Pujols of the Angels for the third-largest total in MLB history.

Greg Johns is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB as well as his Mariners Musings blog.
Read More: Seattle Mariners, Robinson Cano