Seattle Mariners

Mariners GM Jerry Dipoto: ‘If you think we’re a better team without Robinson Cano, you’re crazy’

FILE - In this Sept. 24, 2017, file photo, Seattle Mariners' Robinson Cano watches from the dugout during a baseball game against the Cleveland Indians in Seattle. Cano has been suspended 80 games for violating baseball's joint drug agreement, the league announced Tuesday, May 15, 2018.  (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren
FILE - In this Sept. 24, 2017, file photo, Seattle Mariners' Robinson Cano watches from the dugout during a baseball game against the Cleveland Indians in Seattle. Cano has been suspended 80 games for violating baseball's joint drug agreement, the league announced Tuesday, May 15, 2018. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren

Just in case anyone was wondering whether the Seattle Mariners should consider using Robinson Cano as a pinch-hitter or say “see you next spring” instead of adding him back to the lineup when he’s slated to return from his 80-game suspension for violating MLB’s joint drug and prevent program.

“That’s crazy,” Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto said.

That’s because the Mariners were averaging 4.6 runs per game with Robinson Cano in the lineup through the first 40 games of the season and they’re averaging just less than four runs per game without him.

This was the second time in the past nine years that Cano has not played in the MLB All-Star Game.

“He’s an awesome player,” Dipoto continued. “Robbie going out really hurt our lineup, and the fact that this group of players was able to kind of come together and rise up – I don’t want to state the obvious in a blunt way, but if you think we’re a better team without Robinson Cano, you’re crazy. We are a better team when he’s in there.”

So that whole idea can be put to rest, or one that says he would disrupt the team’s chemistry.

Even while Cano was suspended, he was still around Safeco Field rehabbing from his surgically repaired fractured finger, which he suffered when he was hit by a pitch in Detroit two days before MLB announced Cano’s suspension for using a diuretic they deemed he used to mask his use of performance-enhancing drugs.

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That is to say, he’s been around his teammates often despite being barred from taking part in team-organized workouts and from being in the clubhouse with them.

Cano is currently in the Dominican Republic working out at his facility he owns there with his father, which he detailed earlier in the month in his first and only interview with media since his suspension.

Dipoto said the plan will be to play him at second base, first base and designated hitter when Cano returns and that he’ll be an everyday presence in the lineup.

Dipoto was asked if there’s potential for Dee Gordon to get more playing time as part of the rotation in the outfield when Cano returns.

“Not really,” Dipoto said. “We look at Dee as our second baseman.

“There may be a time, especially in mid-August through the end of the season when he slides out to center field for a day, but primarily he’s going to play second base.”

And that means less time at second base for Cano, the two-time Gold Glove winner. He’s never played first base in the major leagues.

“We sat down and talked with Robbie and he was like, ‘Whatever I need to do to help this team get to the postseason,”” Dipoto said, which is the same sentiment Cano shared earlier this month. “He’s great about it. He even joked about playing the left side of the infield in the minor leagues.

“He’s in a good place and he’s in a team-first place and I know he’s working hard at it. Robbie has really good hands, and I think transitioning to first base as an alternative position is something that I think once he does it he’ll realize how good he can be at it, is my guess.”

Of course, that would mean less playing time for first baseman Ryon Healy, as well as designated hitter Nelson Cruz – except that Cano wouldn’t be eligible to play in the postseason because of his suspension.

“Right now, we think the best team we can put on the field includes spotting Robbie in those different spots, maintaining Dee at second base, and in center field, Guillermo has done a remarkable job defensively. We got to find some way of getting everyone on track offensively.

“If we play like we did that last week of the first half (when the Mariners lost eight of 11 and four consecutive games), we look tired. But for the other three months of the first half we looked terrific and very resilient and my guess is this team is going to show up and Robbie will help it a lot.”

Dipoto said he plans on visiting Cano in the Dominican Republic once the Mariners get past the July 31 nonwaiver trade deadline. Cano can’t play in live games, but Dipoto said the 35-year-old has essentially orchestrated his own pick-up games with recently released players and younger, upstart prospects from the DR throwing him batting practice daily.

“The least of my concerns is if he’s going to be prepared to play because the one thing I know about Robinson Cano is that his level of pride and showing up in games when needed most … it’s as high as anyone I’ve ever been around,” Dipoto said. “He cares what his performance looks like. He’s put a lot into it. I know he’s in great shape and he was in great shape when he left and was swinging the bat well. I just don’t know what it looks like defensively because we didn’t see a lot of that, but I’m assuming it’s going to look good.”

TJ Cotterill: 253-597-8677; Twitter: @TJCotterill
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