Felix Hernandez defends suspended Cano: 'I don't think he took anything'
Robinson Cano spoke to media for the first time since major league baseball slammed an 80-game suspension on the Mariners’ All-Star second baseman for violating its joint drug and prevention program.
His voice seemed to quiver and hands shake while holding a folded paper as he sat in the Mariners’ Legends Room surrounded by a some local reporters at Safeco Field, a few levels above the team clubhouse from which he has been banned during games since May 15.
Cano chatted, shook hands, smiled, noted how bored he’s been and then read from a prepared statement before answering questions — though he said he could not talk about any of the particulars of MLB’s investigation, which found that he tested positive for a diuretic that MLB’s independent investigator deemed was used to mask the use of performance enhancing drugs.
Some of the highlights from the more than 20 minutes he spoke:
Cano said he’s open to doing whatever the team needs to get to the playoffs, for which he’ll be ineligible even after he returns Aug. 14. He said he’s open to working at another position so that Dee Gordon can continue to play second base, though he had not talked with general manager Jerry Dipoto about the specifics of that.
Cano said he’ll be cheering in the dugout if the team makes the postseason, even though he’d be ineligible to play.
Cano said he is responsible for what goes into his body but said he never had any issues with MLB’s drug testing in his previous 13 seasons and that his doctor prescribed the diuretic to him to treat a medical ailment he didn’t specify.
Here’s what he read:
“The city of Seattle has become my second home for my family and I. I’m grateful to the organization, my teammates and the fans and as you guys know I’ve been getting tested for the last 14 seasons and I’ve never had an issue with MLB policy. I was treated 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.
“I wanted to apologize genuinely to the city of Seattle and to all the fans, and the young baseball players in the States and the DR and most importantly to my teammates.”
Why talk now?
Cano is eligible to begin a rehab assignment Aug. 1 before his potential return for the rest of the regular season. He plans to head to his home in the Dominican Republic and work at the field he built with his father three years ago as he ramps up his workouts to be ready for his return. He said he wasn’t sure when he would come back to Seattle.
Cano wanted to speak before he left for the DR.
“We all make mistakes,” Cano said. “We can judge anybody, but we don’t know the situation that person is going through as a person. I get it — a lot of people might judge me. I get it. The fans and anybody else can say what they think if they choose to. But at the same time, like I told the guys when I met with them, I don’t want any of them to go through that situation because it’s not a good feeling what I went through for a month and not going out to play every day and knowing that you are waiting and having to see what’s going to happen. It makes it hard.”
He said it was difficult not only to accept the 80-game suspension that tarnishes his reputation, especially among those who vote players into the Hall of Fame, but he wasn’t able to work for a month while he recovered from a fractured finger he suffered two days before the suspension was announced. He said he wasn’t able to talk with any of his teammates about any of the specifics of MLB’s investigation, either.
“The hardest thing was not being able to say anything to any of them, and they’re my friends. But I wasn’t able to say anything until they made the decision. That was the hardest thing for me to do when you come in every day and knowing that you want to say something but you can’t.”
Judging by Hall of Fame voters’ treatment of others tied to PEDs and steroids, Cano would lucky to get elected with this on his resume. Hall of Famer Frank Thomas emotionally talked about it on Fox Sports, saying everything Cano has accomplished for his career now comes into question — a point shared by many.
Cano has won two Gold Gloves and five Silver Sluggers, made eight All-Star appearances and has a .304 career batting average with a .354 on-base percentage.
Cano was asked about the perception of his legacy.
“I would say I’ll leave that to the writers and you guys and fans,” Cano said. “We all make mistakes.
“And one thing I’ll say right now is it’s not about thinking about my legacy. I’m planning on playing for a long time and being in this game I love. I would say when the time comes and it’s time for me to hang my shoes and retire, that’s when I might think about that. But right now my focus is just to prepare myself to be strong when I get back.”
He was asked about comments from some of his former teammates with the New York Yankees and others who have publicly chastised Cano and questioned his integrity. Former Yankees teammate Mark Teixeira had said Cano’s link to PEDs didn’t surprise him, and general manager Brian Cashman briefly alluded to that.
But Cano pointed to his appreciation for the support from others such as Yankees pitcher C.C. Sabathia and Hall of Famer Mariano Rivera.
“Every time you hear negative comments with anyone ...” Cano said before stopping. “What I really care about is the guys who came out and said positive things like C.C and Mariano. If you focus on the negative then you are always going to live in the past. For me, I move on and I look ahead. I don’t really care what they say. They can say whatever they want and I hope none of them or their family have to go through a situation like this because it’s easy to go out and judge anyone.
“I’ve been playing for 14 years, and the past 13 seasons I never had an issue with MLB’s testing policy. But they are free to say whatever they want. That’s something I cannot control.”
He met with his current Mariners teammates in a closed-door meeting, including two of them, Dee Gordon and Nelson Cruz, who have previously received 80-game drug suspensions.
“I didn’t really know what to say,” Cano said. “You don’t even want to go in there. You’ve been part of the team and one of the leaders and this kind of thing happened. Like I told Jerry (Dipoto), ‘I want to go in as a man and talk to them and apologize to my teammates.’
“The way they’ve taken this, they’ve been on my side and I’m glad. And I love the way they’re playing … It makes it easier the way they are playing.”
The Mariners entered Saturday 34-16 in 50 games they’ve been without Cano since his injury, and Dipoto and manager Scott Servais have both mentioned how the team has been galvanized in Cano’s absence.
But that’s not to say the team hasn’t missed him and won’t gladly welcome his bat when he does return. The Mariners were averaging 4.69 runs per game with Cano batting third in the order with a .763 OPS in 39 games before his injury. They entered Saturday averaging 4.06 runs with a .725 OPS since then. Their improved pitching has been the difference.
“We had that chemistry before I left and they kept it the same,” he said. “We are all on the same page here. We all want to win and make it to the playoffs. And that tells you what a great team we have to see what they’ve done even when I’m not able to play for 80 games. But seeing the guys go out and give everything they’ve got made it easier for me as a teammate because if we were losing and I had to sit and watch those games, I’d be telling myself, if I was there it would be different.
“But you have to give the credit to the players, the manager, the coaching staff and the organization with the way they have pulled this team together even without me or anybody else, they can compete with anyone.”
Cano won’t get all the playing time at second base when he returns because if the Mariners make the playoffs for the first time since 2001, he won’t be there. Dee Gordon will.
“I haven’t talked to Jerry yet but I would do anything for the team,” Cano said. “This is not about myself, this is about us as a team. We are playing for the city of Seattle. All of us — the city, my teammates and myself. I’m focused on bringing a title to Seattle. So I would do whatever it takes to help this team win.
“At the same time, I understand I’m not going to be able to play in the playoffs, so you 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.”
Cano was asked about working on playing first base, which he has never played in the major leagues. He could also share some time with Nelson Cruz at designated hitter, but Cruz is only an emergency outfielder at this stage in his career.
“Maybe when the time comes — I don’t know what they will decide or what that’s going to be,” Cano said. “But it’s not about me talking about myself or what’s going to happen in the future. It’s about moving on from the situation, come back strong and help this team to make the playoffs.”
He did say that he would recommend young players double-check anything they take.
“We all make mistakes,” Cano said. “I don’t want anybody to go through this situation. There’s always going to be people who make mistakes. All of us in here will make mistakes and do things we regret. But for me, I’m going to keep my head up and be the same man I am and this is not a thing that’s going to put myself down.
“I’m going to keep going out there and proving people … I don’t want to say proving, but I mean go out and keep doing what I’m doing at the same level that I play at.”
TJ Cotterill: 253-597-8677; Twitter: @TJCotterill