Commentary

Cano shining brightest among stars

Slugging second baseman could record best April in Yankees history

Updated: April 30, 2010, 12:02 PM ET
By Andrew Marchand | ESPNNewYork.com

BALTIMORE -- Robinson Cano might be concluding the greatest April in Yankees history.

If he keeps his average above .400 on Friday night, he will finish this month with eight homers and a .400 batting average.

No Yankee has ever done that, according to Elias. The last major leaguer to hit .400 with at least eight April home runs was Barry Bonds six years ago.

On Thursday, Cano lifted his league-leading average to .407, moved into second on the AL home runs list with eight and made Orioles catcher Matt Wieters' ears ring.

[+] EnlargeRobinson Cano
AP Photo/Nick WassNot to be overlooked, Robinson Cano's defense has been stellar during his scorching April run.

He also completed a defensive play that was so spectacular Yankees starter A.J. Burnett nearly cried out, "Oh, my god!" on the mound, while Cano's manager, Joe Girardi, said he has never seen anything like it.

"He is playing as good as you can play," Girardi said after the Yankees' 4-0 win over the Orioles.

The only thing Cano didn't do Thursday night was pitch. He left that to Burnett.

Burnett, with Francisco Cervelli behind the plate, threw lightning all night, making the Orioles look as if they were swinging toothpicks, going eight innings before Mariano Rivera took care of the ninth.

The play Cano made in the third can be classified as utterly ridiculous. Nolan Reimold hit a hard grounder up the middle. Burnett was already kicking himself, thinking Cano had "no chance" to get to the ball.

Cano smoothly ran just off the dirt and onto to the grass behind second. He backhanded the ball as his momentum forced him into short center. Then, as if he were Magic Johnson, he resorted to a no-look toss, throwing across his body.

"It is not something that I practice; it just happens," Cano said.

It was the type of throw that would make a quarterback's coach scream "No!" Cano rifled it across his body. Mark Teixeira received it with ease at first and Reimold was out.

"It takes range and incredible arm strength to be able to throw without looking," Girardi said.

Burnett put his hands to his hat, like a fan, watching something he could not believe.

"That was amazing," Burnett said.

Cano's first homer was a 399-foot, no-doubt-about-it fourth inning rocket into the night off lefty Brian Matusz, who is the Orioles' young stud starter. Cano uncoiled that classic Rod Carew-like swing. The difference is that Cano has more power than Carew ever did. The most homers Carew ever hit in a season was 14. Cano may have 14 by the time the Yankees go to Boston next weekend.

When the next batter, Marcus Thames, stepped to the plate, Wieters, the Orioles' catcher, said the sound of Cano's bat is "loud." Thames said it is as loud as he has ever heard anyone's, comparable, he says, to Miguel Cabrera.

"It's been like that since spring training," Thames said.

Cano's second homer of the night -- this one off side-winding lefty Alberto Castillo -- was a Jeffrey Maier job that barely reached over the right-field wall as an Orioles fan grabbed it in the eighth. For good measure, Cano also smoked a double in the sixth.

Cano is rampaging, batting .531 on his eight-game hitting streak. On a team with Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter and Teixeira, he is the team's best player right now.

Through the years, there have been plenty of Yankees who have gotten off to incredible starts. None has ever hit .400 in April with eight homers. Not Mickey, DiMaggio or even the Babe.

On Friday night, Cano can do what no Yankee has done before. Oh, and he is playing a Gold Glove second base.

Andrew Marchand covers baseball for ESPNNewYork.com. Follow him on Twitter.

Andrew Marchand is a senior writer for ESPNNewYork. He also regularly contributes to SportsCenter, Baseball Tonight, ESPNews, ESPN New York 98.7 FM and ESPN Radio. He joined ESPN in 2007 after nine years at the New York Post. Follow Andrew on Twitter »

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