Cano's swing a beauty to behold

10/02/2012 12:41 PM ET
By Jack Curry

Robinson Cano's hot bat has propelled the Yankees into the postseason.(AP)
Robinson’s Cano sweet swing has never really changed. He has always had that smooth lefty stroke, which starts with him remaining planted on his back leg, lifting his front leg, rotating his hips toward the pitcher and using his quick hands to pump the bat through the strike zone.

“That’s the way he has always swung,” said Jose Cano, Robinson’s father and the man who has thrown the most pitches to Cano. “He’s always been like that.”

Cano looks like a natural hitter and, according to his father’s recollection, he is a natural hitter. Obviously, Cano has made some modifications to his swing as he developed from a boy who chased his father from batter’s box to batter’s box in the Dominican Republic into a professional hitter. But Cano’s basic swing, that he-looks-so-comfortable-up-there swing, has been with him forever.

“I didn’t teach him that,” said Jose Cano. “That’s something he had.”

As Cano has terrorized pitchers with 18 hits in his last 29 at-bats, including a titanic 446-foot homer in a 10-2 win over the Red Sox on Monday night, that always gorgeous swing has looked even prettier to the Yankees. While Ichiro Suzuki had a superb September and Derek Jeter has been typically reliable, teams often need a power hitter to help carry them. Mark Teixeira has been injured and Alex Rodriguez has been absent, so that left Cano as the most likely player to carry the Yankees. And that is precisely what he has done.

Across Cano’s last seven games, he has been the feared, ferocious hitter that he is expected to be and has notched at least two hits in each game. How talented is Cano? I’m more surprised when Cano goes 0-for-12 than when he goes 8-for-12. He is that skilled, a player with few weaknesses at the plate. Hitting coach Kevin Long frequently counsels Cano about pitch selection and about not helping pitchers by chasing balls outside of the zone.

“If he doesn’t do that,” Long said, “it’s so much tougher for them to get him out.”

Cano was in attack mode against Boston’s Clay Buchholz on Monday. In Cano’s first at-bat in the second inning, he belted a first-pitch fastball for a homer off the Mohegan Sun Casino bar in center field. Later in the nine-run inning, Cano smashed another first-pitch fastball for a two-run double. Two at-bats, two pitches and two doubles, which is two more extra base hits than Rodriguez has in his last 60 at-bats.

There have been stretches in which Cano, the Yankees’ best player, has been an unproductive player. Before this splurge, he had been 9-for-53 with one homer. He has also struggled with runners in scoring position. But, for the last week, Cano and his sweet swing have helped carry the Yankees, carry them achingly close to a division title.

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