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Robinson Cano: Can he carry Yankees back to the playoffs?

Being the second-best hitter on a Yankees squad is nothing to sneeze at.

Being the second-best hitter on a Yankees squad is nothing to sneeze at. After all, Lou Gehrig was the second-best hitter in the 1927 lineup.

Then again, when you become the best hitter on the team, that is worthy of a celebration.

It may go without saying that second baseman Robinson Cano is the best hitter on the 2012 Yankees. He was probably the best hitter on the 2010 and 2011 team too. So why didn't anyone notice?

Cano finished sixth in MVP?voting last season and third the year before. Third will also be the new position Cano will take in the batting order -- traditionally reserved for the best pure hitter on a team. Alex Rodriguez held that position for a long time.

"I'm proud of it, proud to bat third because it shows I've continued to work hard," Cano told The New York Times this week. "But I'll hit wherever they want me. It doesn't matter, because wherever you hit in this lineup, you have to produce."

Cano has never hogged the spotlight on a team that has super-priced free agents Mark Teixeira and Rodriguez and homegrown heroes like Derek Jeter.

But he's surpassed those players at the plate and all for a measly $10 million last season. He will likely be a free agent after next season (the team owns a club option for 2013), but that's an issue for down the road.

As the Yankees shift into the future, Cano will be the centerpiece. Jeter and Rodriguez will be gone. Those veterans are already being relegated to stints at designated hitter to keep them fresh. Meanwhile, Cano has missed 11 games in the last five years. Combined.

Now he is trying to bounce back from a down year in 2011. He only hit .302 with 28 home runs. When you hit .342 in your second season in the majors, that's a down year.

Rivera on a good-bye tour?




When you are the greatest player ever at your position, you deserve one last lap around the league to receive your standing ovations.

Yankees closer Mariano Rivera, on the other hand, would prefer to keep that victory lap a secret.

No one besides Rivera, not even manager Joe Girardi or general manager Brian Cashman, know if he will retire after the 2012 season. But his comments at the opening of spring training have led many of believe it is his last.

"It is hard when you have the ability to continue and you have to make that decision [whether to retire]," Rivera said as camp opened. "It is hard. For me, baseball is not everything."

Whether it's his last season or not, he'll still deserve standing ovations.