SEATTLE -- Robinson Cano knows his reputation has been damaged, his Mariners team has performed well without him and there is no guarantee even that he'll be the everyday second baseman when he returns on Aug. 14 from his 80-game suspension for the final six weeks of the regular season.
But the eight-time American League All-Star took a first step toward turning the page on Saturday. Cano met with a group of reporters who regularly cover the Mariners for the first time since his suspension before heading to the Dominican Republic to begin working at his dad's baseball facility, where he will face live pitching and get himself as ready as possible.
Cano declined to go into details of the failed drug test that led to his suspension, but apologized to fans, teammates and the city of Seattle.
"I've been getting tested for the last 12 seasons and I've never had an issue with MLB policy," he said. "I was treating for some medical ailments and I was being supervised by a doctor. But at the same time, I understand that everything that goes into my body, I'm responsible for that."
The Mariners were 23-17 when Cano was suspended and they've gone 33-16 without him, with Dee Gordon moving from center field into Cano's second base position and performing extremely well.
Since Cano will be ineligible for the playoffs because of MLB rules regarding players suspended during the regular season, he understands Gordon will need to continue playing second base. He planned to meet later Saturday with general manager Jerry Dipoto to discuss the situation.
"I haven't talked to Jerry yet, but I would do anything for the team," he said. "This is not about myself, this is about us as a team. We are playing for the city of Seattle. I'm focused on bringing a title to Seattle, so I would do whatever it takes to help this team to win.
"At the same time I understand I'm not going to be able to play in the playoffs, so you've got to give a chance to Dee to go out and play because when we get to the playoffs he's going to have to come back and play second base."
Those are the short-term issues. Cano is fully healed from the broken hand that sidelined him a day before his suspension. He's been taking batting practice every morning at Safeco Field and will now face live pitching in the Dominican Republic to further prepare.
Cano didn't say when he'll return from the Dominican, but he'll be eligible to begin a Minor League rehab assignment on Aug. 1 if he's back by then.
But long term? Cano has been one of the best second basemen in the Majors over his 14 seasons with the Yankees and Mariners and a legitimate Hall of Fame candidate. With five years and $120 million remaining on the 10-year contract he signed with Seattle in 2014, he has plenty of time to make amends, much as current teammates Nelson Cruz and Gordon have done after similar suspensions.
But what will the suspension do to Cano's legacy in the game?
"I would say I'll leave that to the writers and you guys and the fans," he said. "We all make mistakes. One thing I would say right now, it's not about thinking about my legacy because I'm planning on playing a long time and keep playing the game I love. When the time comes that it's time to hang up my shoes and retire, that's when I might think about that. Right now my focus is just to prepare myself and be strong for when I get back."
Cano said he's not worried about what critics and some former teammates have said about his situation. He can only control what he does going forward. But if he could give advice to younger players?
"I would say to young guys, one, you have to be careful and make sure about anything you're taking," he said. "Secondly, we all make mistakes. And third, I don't want any of them to go through this situation. I think all of us in here make mistakes and some things we regret at times.
"But for me, I'm going to keep my head up and be the same man I am. This is not a thing that is going to put myself down. I'm going to keep going out there and do what I do in the same way that I play."
That is the approach the 35-year-old must take to push forward. But without question, the suspension has left its mark on him.
"For me, this is the hardest thing that I've gone through in my life besides the death of my grandpa," he said. "As you guys know, I love this game so much. For me, baseball is everything. You know I hate to even sit in the dugout and have a day off. Being away from the game and not being able to sit in the dugout and cheer for my teammates, that makes it even harder."