A week ahead of his scheduled return to the Mariners, 2B Robinson Cano began an assignment in AAA Tacoma Monday night, starting at first base for the first time in his career. He can be reinstated from his 80-game suspension for violating MLB’s drug policy Aug. 14. Rules permit a 14-day period to prepare for the return.
Cano has been spending some of his time working out at his family’s baseball facility in the Dominican Republic, returning to Seattle last week. He had a single in the first and a walk in eighth around two ground-outs as the Rainiers beat Colorado Springs 3-2 in 10 innings. He’ll DH in Tuesday’s day game, after which Cano will report to Class A Everett.
When he was busted May 15 for use of a masking agent that hides PED use, Cano in 39 games was hitting .287 with 24 runs, 10 doubles, four home runs, 23 RBI, 21 walks, a .385 on-base percentage and a .441 slugging mark (.825 OPS). He was put on the disabled list May 13 after a pitch broke a bone in his right hand.
The Mariners shortly took off on a 22-6 run that caused some fans to speculate that Cano, 35, wasn’t all that necessary to team success, especially after Dee Gordon moved in from center field to prove he was a better defender at Cano’s position.
But since the season peaked July 3 with an eight-game win streak that put the Mariners 24 games above .500 (55-31), they had lost 18 of 25 to fall out of the fifth and final American League playoff spot that looked to have been nearly locked up.
The offense largely has been to blame. The Mariners beat the Blue Jays 6-3 Sunday to salvage one win in a four-game series, part of a 2-5 homestand. Entering the game, the Mariners had been outscored 32-11 in the previous six games. The Mariners in July scored an MLB-low 77 runs.
The suspension cost Cano $11.8 million of his $24 million annual salary, as well as his old job. Gordon will stay at second. Cano has been working out first base as well at some at third. He said in an interview last month that he’s willing to play anywhere to help.
Since making his MLB debut 2005, he has appeared in 2,037 games, second-most of any player in that span. Since joining the Mariners in 2014 after signing a 10-year, $240 million contract through the 2023 season, he has hit .294 with five triples, 101 home runs and 384 RBI in 662 games.
The Mariners Monday began a 10-game road trip through the AL West with a 4-3 win in 11 innings over the Rangers in Texas.