Baseball

Mariners notebook: Cano looks back to 2008 struggles in effort to keep even keel

What’s wrong with Robinson Cano?

That question grows louder each day as the Seattle Mariners’ perennial All-Star second baseman continues to scuffle through a season that has now passed the one-quarter mark.

Cano is batting .253 after going 0-for-3 with a walk in Saturday’s 3-2 victory over the Blue Jays. He also has only one homer and 11 RBIs through 42 games. That puts him on pace to finish with four homers and 42 RBIs.

“You’re trying to figure it out every single day,” he said. “You keep the same energy. I get here (to the ballpark) and do the same thing every single day. And I know one day, things are going to change around.

“The last thing I want to do is hang my head and change my attitude. I will never do that. I will keep being the same guy. Always root for the guys and try to do my job when I get to the plate.”

Here’s the thing … Cano has been here before.

Only worse.

“In 2008,” he recalled. “I think in the first half, I hit like .200. It was something really low. I think that was the first year of my (multi-year) contract with the Yankees.”

Cano didn’t get above .200 for good that season until May 14. As late as June 13, 67 games into the season, he was batting .217 with a mere four homers and 20 RBIs.

Then the typical Cano returned. He batted .311 over his final 92 games with 10 homers and 52 RBIs. Even so, he’s not simply assuming it will happen again this year.

“Of course I’m concerned,” he said, “but I understand I’ve been in this situation before. Sometimes you go through these situations, and it makes you a better player and a better person.

“Right now, there’s nothing more I can do. I’ve been doing my work, and I’m going to be working out through the last day.”

When frustration peaks, Cano called his father or his hitting coach in the Dominican Republic.

“We talk about the game,” he said. “But I don’t want to put too much on my dad. I don’t want to be over-thinking. Like (Friday), I was feeling good at the plate (and went 0-for-4).

“There were some balls that were right there, and I missed them. That’s part of the game. It’s going to happen … Hopefully, things turn around quick.”

JACKSON UPDATE

Center fielder Austin Jackson entered Saturday at 6-for-24 through six games of his rehab assignment at Triple-A Tacoma for a sprained right ankle.

“Austin went 1-for-5 last night with three strikeouts,” manager Lloyd McClendon said. “The ankle is feeling good, but the bat isn’t feeling too good.”

Rehab assignments can last up to 20 days for non-pitchers. McClendon said a return date for Jackson is open-ended “as of right now.”

Jackson suffered the injury on May 3 while running out a grounder in a 7-6 loss at Houston. He was batting .242 at the time with 11 runs and five stolen bases in 25 games.

CLOSING TIME

Fernando Rodney’s ERA, even after getting saves in the last two games, is 6.23, which is higher than any closer in either league with at least 10 save opportunities.

But … Rodney also has 12 saves in 13 chances, which is the stat that McClendon prioritizes.

“I don’t think you worry about the ERA much,” McClendon said. “My old skipper taught me this a long time ago: Your responsibility as a manager is to get the ball to your closer in the ninth inning.”

Viewed solely from a pass/fail perspective, Rodney remains among the best in the game. He was an All-Star a year ago when he led the majors with 48 saves (in 51 opportunities while compiling a 2.85 ERA).

So Rodney is now 60-for-64 since the start of last season. Nobody has more saves in that span (Craig Kimbel had 58, through Friday, with Atlanta and San Diego).

And only two relievers, through Friday, had a higher success rate than Rodney’s 93.8-percent mark among those with at least 20 save opportunities: Aroldis Chapman at 95.6, and Kansas City’s Greg Holland at 94.6.

Rodney shrugs off his ERA.

“That doesn’t bother me,” he said, “because I know we’re just (a little over) a month into the season. I know it’s coming down. I know the more chances I get, the more it will be coming down.”

Even if it doesn’t…

“Hopefully, he’s 49 out of 50 with a six ERA,” McClendon said. “I don’t give a (spit) about his ERA. Just close the games out.”

LOOKING BACK

It was 20 years ago Sunday — May 24, 1995 — that now-broadcaster Mike Blowers matched a franchise record by driving in eight runs in a 15-6 victory over Boston at the Kingdome.

Blowers had two doubles, a triple and a two-run homer in going 4-for-5.

His eight RBIs matched the club record set by Alvin Davis on May 9, 1986 vs. Toronto. Mike Cameron gained a share of the record by driving in eight runs Aug. 19, 2001 at New York.

SHORT HOPS

The Mariners have hit 53 homers but less than one-fourth of them, 13, have come with runners on base. … Seth Smith, who didn’t start Saturday against Toronto lefty Mark Buehrle, leads the majors with a .524 average (11-for-21) in day games. … Nelson Cruz went 1-for-4 on Saturday and needs three hits to reach 1,000 for his career. … The Mariners played their 42nd game Saturday and used their 33rd different lineup.

ON TAP

The Mariners and Blue Jays conclude their three-game series at 10:07 a.m. (PDT) Sunday at the Rogers Centre. Right-hander Taijuan Walker (1-4, 7.47) will face Toronto right-hander Aaron Sanchez (3-4, 4.17).

The game can be seen on Root Sports Northwest and heard on 710-AM and 97.3-FM.

The Mariners conclude their three-city, nine-game trip with a three-game series that opens Monday at Tampa Bay.

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