Cano works on increasing defensive versatility

Mariners infielder taking grounders at first, third base

August 3rd, 2018

SEATTLE -- When rejoins the Mariners in 12 days, his former second-base position will be held down by Dee Gordon. That move was further solidified when Seattle acquired center fielder from the Marlins on Tuesday, leaving Gordon strictly as the second baseman.

So word from his dad's baseball facility in the Dominican Republic this week that Cano has been taking ground balls, not only at second base, but also first and third, should come as no surprise.

The Mariners have made it clear they want Cano in the lineup every day when he comes off his 80-game suspension on Aug. 14 in Oakland. The assumption has been that he'll primarily split duties at first base with and occasionally see time at second base or as the designated hitter.

If Cano were to replace as the "utility infielder" for the final two weeks of August before rosters expand in September, he'll need to be able to play third base, as well. Gordon is a former shortstop who conceivably could slide in there in an emergency, but Cano will need to be more versatile than he has in the past.

While Cano played 80 games at shortstop and 16 at third base in his Minor League career, he's been strictly a second baseman since his MLB debut in 2005 at age 22. In his 14 big league seasons, he's played 1,995 games at second base and one inning -- in 2013 with the Yankees -- at shortstop.

"In talking with Robbie, he just wants to help any way he can," manager Scott Servais said. "If that means giving Kyle [Seager] a day off at third or see what happens at first base, play a game at second base, he's going to play wherever we need him to play.

"He wants to be prepared as well as he can to handle those spots. He hasn't been at those spots in a long time. So I'm glad he's getting the work in. He does have a good arm."

Cano is eligible to begin playing organized games at the Minor League level, but for now he's remaining in the Dominican Republic.

"He's very anxious to get playing again," Servais said. "He can't wait to get back and help the team. Obviously he needs to play in a few games here coming up, but he's very anxious to get back."

Diaz zeroing in on haircut for his skipper

For , it's time to set a new target. The 24-year-old closer wanted to reach 40 saves this year after totaling 34 in 2017. But he's already racked up an MLB-leading 40 with a third of the season remaining.

"Forty saves was my goal earlier in the season," he said. "I got a lot in May and June. I have to keep working to get to 50 to make that deal with my manager."

The deal, of course, is that Servais agreed to get the same kind of haircut Diaz sports -- shaving arrows on the sides of his head -- if he reaches 50.

"We were in the lunch room and he came to me when I had like three or four saves at the start of the season and he said, 'If you get to 50, I'll will wear your lines,'" Diaz recalled. "I said, 'Let's make a deal. I have nothing to lose, so let's do it.'"

Diaz has surprised more than just his manager with amazing first four months. He's on pace to reach 60 saves, just two shy of the MLB record by the Angels' in 2008. He's already just the fourth Mariners pitcher to record 40 saves in a season and just eight away from 's club record set in 2014.

He was named American League Reliever of the Month for the third time in the first four months on Thursday.

"I feel pretty good," said the youngster from Puerto Rico. "It's tough to win that award, so I'm having a great year. I have two more months. I'll try to throw my good innings and win again. Why not?"

Worth noting

• Healy was back in the lineup on Thursday after sitting out Wednesday to rest a sore back. The 26-year-old aggravated the back in a collision with Mike Zunino on Sunday in Anaheim, but that was the first time he'd had to sit out.

• Right-hander allowed four hits and one earned run with no walks and six strikeouts over four innings in a rehab outing with Double-A Arkansas on Wednesday. Including two outings for Triple-A Tacoma, he's given up just five hits and one earned run with no walks and nine strikeouts in nine rehab innings.

The Mariners will decide whether he needs another Minor League outing or is ready to rejoin the big league club as either an extra starter or long reliever after being out since May 1 with a strained shoulder.