In a few weeks Joe Girardi will have the pleasure of filling out the paperwork to name the American League All-star team. That is one of the perks of managing the defending World Champions.
Regardless of how fan voting at second base finishes, Robinson Cano will likely be there and when Girardi maps out the pitching staff, he can throw Phil Hughes’ name into the mix.
Both players shined last night as the Yankees pummeled the Orioles, 9-1, and moved 13 games over .500.
Cano ran his hitting streak to 16 games with a 3-for-4 performance that saw him score three times and hit his 12th home run. His fifth three-hit game of 2010 was just a day after the second update of All-Star voting revealed he had a sizable lead over Boston’s Dustin Pedroia.
Even if fans are stuffing the ballots boxes at Yankee Stadium and voting 25 times per email address online, Cano is certainly worthy. He has been consistent all year and now has a .373 batting average while leading the majors with 75 hits.
If it seems like Cano never is retired, that is not too far from the truth. He is 17-for-25 in the last five games and has 938 hits as a second baseman since debuting May 3, 2005.
Even if Cano does not win the fan voting, he would appear to be a lock for his second All-Star game. The other time Cano could not go because he strained a hamstring shortly before the 2006 game and that was a year when he batted .342.
The Cano of four years ago and the present is vastly different. He still likes to swing and will not be someone who draws 100 walks but hitting fifth Cano has become someone who swings at strikes as opposed to chasing pitches.
“It’s patience and just swinging at strikes,” Cano said. “I’m not chasing pitches like I used to before. Now, if I see a ball, I just let it go. It’s been working good. I’ve been doing good, but we’ve got a lot of games left.”
“I just think it’s maturity having a better idea of what you’re able to do, discussions that he’s had with (hitting coach) Kevin Long and other players, maybe watching other players how they do it,” Girardi said. “I just think it’s a natural process that takes place when you have a lot of talent.”
While Cano presents a modest front, his numbers, especially during his hitting streak are quite lavish. Since starting it on May 17, Cano is hitting .471 (32-for-68) with three home runs and 19 RBI.
“Robby has outstanding hitting mechanics,” Girardi said. “He has unbelievable hand-eye coordination and when he swings at strikes he hits the ball hard. When you hit the ball hard good things happen and that’s exactly what he’s doing.”
Cano’s debut came nearly a year after Hughes was a first-round pick and he had a nice view of the pitcher who has become the most prolific winner among Yankee first-round selections.
After allowing one run and six hits in seven innings, Hughes is 7-1 and has not allowed more than two earned runs in any start while going seven innings six times. He also is 9-1 with a 2.91 ERA in his last 14 starts, numbers that rarely appear for someone given the label of fifth starter.
“He has been so, so good for us,” Girardi said. “You watch how he goes about his business, how he locates that fastball. He is doing so many things right when he goes out there; you’re kind of shocked when he doesn’t.”
Hughes won without much help from his cutter. The righty decided to abandon it following Miguel Tejada’s double down the right field line in the third and took a shutout into the sixth and focused more on throwing fastballs.
“For the most part they weren’t able to square it up when I went down and away,” Hughes said.
When the Yankees have used their first-round pick on pitching, the players have either been traded (Scott McGregor, Eric Milton) or failed to live up to hype (Brien Taylor). Six years ago when they picked Hughes they envisioned this and held on to him just like they did with Cano.
Now Hughes has a decent chance to be an All-Star in Anaheim, not far from where the Yankees found him playing high school baseball.
“I’ve thought about it,” Hughes said. “It’d be nice, but it’s still something I’m not too worried about yet.”