First Pitch: Cano's show

July, 15, 2013
NEW YORK -- The Yankee who takes the most extra batting practice is Robinson Cano. On most days, four hours or more before first pitch, Cano is out on the field, taking pitches from hitting coach Kevin Long. They do one drill in which they place a batting screen to block half the plate to force Cano to tighten his swing.

Cano's swing is one of the sweetest ever in the Bronx, which is why today is his day.

Cano embraces the Home Run Derby. He doesn't worry about the long-term impact on his swing, but instead rejoices in his dad throwing him batting practice, like they have done so many times before.

In 2011 in Phoenix, Cano put on a spectacular show. In the final round, he beat then Red Sox Adrian Gonzalez by hitting 13 homers, including one that nearly traveled 500 feet. The joy on Cano's face personified how much he loves to hit.

In 2012, it wasn't as thrilling for Cano because the Royals fans were relentless in booing him after he declined to pick Billy Butler as a competitor. Cano wilted and put up a bagel, failing to homer even once.

On Monday night, Cano -- with his desire to have a little more spotlight and with free agency on the horizon -- has a chance to make it his show again. To be a star, you have to perform like one -- Cano relishes the chance to take BP under such a spotlight.

UP NOW: My column on the Yankees' first half. They played as well as they could, but still are closer to last than first. Matt Ehalt on CC Sabathia's ugly end to the first half.

ON DECK: All your All-Star and A-Rod news. Kieran Darcy, Mike Mazzeo, Adam Rubin, me and scores of other ESPN folks will have you covered in Flushing. Meanwhile, in Reading, Pa. we will be tracking the steps of Alex Rodriguez.

IN THE HOLE: The Home Run Derby is on ESPN, Watch ESPN, ESPN Radio and ESPN New York. First pitch is 8 p.m.

QUESTION OF THE DAY: Where would you rank Cano's swing in Yankee history?
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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Masahiro Tanaka
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OPSB. Gardner .749
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