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With ‘darkest days’ behind him, Robinson Canó eager to make return for M’s

Robinson Cano won't be playing for the Mariners until mid-August due to a suspension. (AP)

Robinson Canó spoke with a small group of reporters Saturday. It was the first time the Mariners’ All-Star second baseman has talked publicly since he was suspended 80 games for violating the league’s drug policy.

Assuming the Mariners do not run into any rainouts on the road in the next month, Canó’s return from suspension should happen August 14. He knows the date, but has avoided the calendar.

“I’m not counting any games because then I will go crazy,” he said.

Saturday afternoon, Canó met with a small group of media for the first time since he was hit with the suspension for violating the MLB’s Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program. As he gets ready to leave for the Dominican Republic, where he will continue to prepare for his returning to action, he said that all along he understood it was important that he faced the media, but the timing had been difficult.

“I wanted to do it earlier, but I don’t want to be a distraction for the team,” he said.”They are playing great and the last thing I want is to be a distraction for them. I want to give my face to you guys; I don’t think it is fair for me to just walk into the clubhouse.”

Canó read from a short prepared statement before taking questions for about fifteen minutes. He once again apologized to teammates and fans and stressed that his focus now is on doing whatever it takes to help this club get to the post season. He was not permitted to give details about his failed test, but echoed what he had said in a previous statement.

“I’ve been getting tested the last 12 seasons and never had a problem with the MLB policy,” he said. “I was treated for some medical ailment, I’ve been supervised by a doctor. (But) at the same time I understand everything that goes into my body, I’m responsible for that.”

The fracture in his hand has completely healed and Canó has resumed all baseball activities, arriving early at the park to go through structured workouts and hitting drills. While he gets his work and treatment in early to avoid taking trainers or batting practice pitchers away from others, he has stuck around after and spent significant time around the team. His focus now is to get stronger and be ready for August 14. The negatives surrounding his situation are something he has tried to put out of his mind. But make no mistake, they have been many.

“This has been the hardest thing I have gone through in this life besides the death of my grandpa,” he said. “I love this game so much for me, basically it’s everything. Not being able to sit in the dugout and cheer for my teammates makes it even harder. Walking in early, preparing myself and getting ready, being healthy, you have to wait for that time.”

Being able to spend time around teammates that have shown support has helped Canó, as has seeing the team play well without him.

“Emotionally, you look back and say, ‘I hope this thing didn’t happen’,” he said. “You know you were there at the beginning, and now not able to be there. What has made it easier for me is just the way they are playing, because all you want is the best for your team and your teammates. But it’s tough to watch the games when you know you have been doing this for the last 14 years. It’s kind of hard.”

Canó will leave the team in the coming days and return to the Dominican Republic where his father has a baseball facility. There, he will continue with his work and face live pitching from professionals from the Dominican League. While he said that Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto has yet to address what role he will fill when he returns, the small smile on his face when the question was asked gave the impression he knows his role has been a hot topic of conversation.

“I will do anything for the team because this is not about myself,” Canó said. “This is about us as a team. We should be focused on bringing the title to Seattle. So I will do whatever it takes to help the team to win. At the same time I understand I am not going to be able to play in the playoffs, so you have got to give the chance to Dee (Gordon) to go out and play. The last thing you want is to move him to the outfield and the last day he has to come back and play second base.”

When asked if first base would be an option, Canó said that, too, had yet to be addressed.

“I haven’t talked to Jerry about anything yet,” he said. “Right now it is not about me thinking about myself (or) what’s going to happen with me in the future. It’s about more about, move on from the situation, look ahead, come back strong and help this team make it to the playoffs.”

If Seattle makes the postseason, Canó will not be eligible to play in a playoff game. While it is hard to imagine missing the team’s first playoff appearance in seventeen years, Canó looks at the situation differently.

“Being part of this process, that’s the only thing that I take positive, is to be able to help the team at the beginning and at the end to help make the playoffs,” he said. “And I am going to be the first one you see in the dugout cheering for the team, giving advice. Because only two or three guys have been in the playoffs. It’s a different game, the energy, the emotion. But I will be the first one in there cheering for the guys.”

While there will be tough days ahead – Canó will no doubt hear booing on the road – it would appear his darkest days are behind him. The next time Canó takes the field will be the first time this season he plays without knowing that the suspension could come and having to keep that knowledge from teammates.

“Like I told the guys when I met with them, to go through that situation, it’s not a good feeling what I went through for a month,” he said. “To go out every day, playing and waiting to see what’s going to happen. For me the hardest thing was to not be able to say anything to them even if they were my friend, because I was not be allowed to say anything until they make that decision if it is yes or not. That was the one hardest things for me to do, to be working every day. You want to say something but you can’t.”

There seems to be acceptance in the clubhouse. His teammates have shown heavy support and, at least publicly, not a hint of judgment. Canó understands it will different outside the clubhouse.

“We all make mistakes,” said Canó. “If it didn’t happen to me, it happened to someone else. We can’t judge anyone. We don’t know what the situation was that person went through. As a person, a lot of people might judge me. I get it. You have got to give the fans and everybody else, they can say what they think.”

Canó will tune out the negative. His job now is to report ready. He knows he he can be a valuable addition to the team: a mid-season boost, well rested, and that rare 100 percent. His teammates play in part helped get him through the suspension. His goal is to help get them through the rest of the year.

“Seeing the guys go out there and give everything they have got has made it easier for me as a teammate,” he said. “You have got to give credit to the players and the manager and the coaching staff and the organization. Even if they don’t have me or anybody else, you can see they can compete with anyone. I love the way the guys are playing right now.”

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