Yankees Pregame Notebook: Where have you gone, Mr. Robinson (Cano)?Robinson Cano makes his return to Yankee Stadium with the Mariners on Tuesday
The forecast looks like the heavy rain will hold off just long enough tonight, so the opener of a three-game set between the first-place Yankees and the Seattle Mariners should go down as scheduled at Yankee Stadium.
When they take the field, Cano will once again be about 60 feet away from Yankees starter CC Sabathia tonight, but in a much different capacity: instead of behind him, he will be facing CC for the first time since Sabathia was a Cleveland Indian.
"Robbie meant a great deal to us, and we loved having him," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said of Cano. "He was fun to watch play on a daily basis, and it was easy to put his name in the lineup every day."
Cano, who admitted he was excited to be back, will have more than 100 family and friends in the Stadium tonight and has also bought more than 200 tickets for local Little Leaguers - and hopefully, those 300 or so won't be the only ones cheering for him.
"I've been looking forward to coming back to this city, I loved it here and had a great first nine years. I've always loved the fans, and I want to thank the crowd for being great to me all those years," he said, "but I understand that it's different when you're not in front of the home crowd (and here as a visitor)."
As far as the Yankees' lineup goes, Kelly Johnson is out because of what Girardi called "the usual mixing and matching," but Jacoby Ellsbury was not in the starting lineup because of lingering soreness in the top of his left hand.
Girardi said he could use Ellsbury to pinch-run or play defense tonight, but he's hoping that a full day off today - combined with a potential third straight off day tomorrow, if the bleak weather forecast comes true and causes a cancellation of Wednesday night's game - will help clear the issue up.
"His hand has been sore the last couple days. He had some tests done and the tests came back good; there's no structural damage, it's just been sore," the skipper said. "We don't know how he did it, and it's been bothering him but he's been playing through it."
Ellsbury has been one of the team's offensive catalysts, hitting .312 with 11 RBI and a team-leading eight stolen bases, but on the whole, Girardi is confident his offense can keep clicking as the season goes on.
"I think we're performing okay, I do. You're going to run into some tough nights where you don't score some runs, and I think our offense as time goes on is going to get better and better," he said. "We brought some guys over from the National League, so as they get more familiar and see guys for the second or third time I think that's going to help them. I've been very pleased with our offense."
With that, Girardi pointed to Sunday night's win as an example of the team's grittiness.
"We faced Garrett Richards the other night, and his stuff was filthy, but we found a way to scratch three runs across the board, which wasn't easy to do," he said. "We've gotten a little help at times, but I've been pretty pleased, and I think as the year has gone on, we've swung more consistently and guys have contributed all across the board."
Whether or not tonight's matchup with Chris Young is easier or harder remains to be seen, but Girardi was sure of one thing: the Yankees won't let Cano beat him.
"This is a ballpark where a lot of times you might not want to give free base runners, because in places it can play a little smaller than other fields. I'll judge by the matchup, but it's something we'll look at...there are a lot of No. 3 hitters you look at and say "we can't let them beat us," but he's a big one."
A couple other notes from a dreary Tuesday at Yankee Stadium:
-Michael Pineda, who is roughly halfway through his 10-game suspension, threw a simulated game in Tampa on Tuesday, but stopped after one inning because of tightness in his right lat muscle. Pineda will have an MRI, and Girardi said that his scheduled return start on Monday could be in jeopardy: "The good thing is that it's not his shoulder, it's down in his lat...I would think his start is in jeopardy, but we'll wait for the results, and as soon as we have more, we'll give it to you."
-David Phelps is scheduled to pitch Wednesday in Pineda's stead, and Girardi said the team is hoping to get 70 to 75 pitches out of him. In addition, if Pineda is unable to start next Monday as scheduled, Phelps will likely remain in the rotation for the time being.
-For the last word, we'll switch sports slightly, as this was Girardi's response when asked his thoughts on NBA Commissioner Adam Silver's decision to ban Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling for life and fine him $2.5 million: "I think the NBA handled the situation well. I think they did their own investigation, and basically made a statement that there's no room for racism. We're all people, and we need to get along and understand we're all different. I applaud the NBA."