Cano becoming gold standard at second

Cano becoming gold standard at second

The move has become Robinson Cano's dazzling defensive signature, using the opportunity to show off an exceptionally strong throwing arm by fighting physics and firing a strike across his body into the first baseman's chest.

It is a highlight-reel play the Yankees are accustomed to seeing, yet it still prompts wide smiles and congratulations. For all his offensive exploits, Cano's work at second base has been just as impressive, and this may be the year he is finally rewarded with his first Rawlings Gold Glove Award.

"It'd be a dream come true," Cano said. "As a player, you always want to win a Gold Glove or a MVP or a batting title. You work hard and you want to be one of the best in the game. That's one of the things that make you work harder every single day."

As Cano enjoys consideration for the American League MVP Award this season, helping to power a lineup that has asked more of him, the Yankees have been pleased to see Cano's glove work continue to improve.

"His defense has been tremendous," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "You see some of the plays he makes and you just kind of go, 'Wow.' I think he is a Gold Glove candidate, I really do."

Girardi was among those who believed that Cano was a lock to receive his first Gold Glove last year, noting that he has never see anyone make that signature play going to his right the way Cano can.

But when the final ballots were unveiled, Cano was not listed among the Gold Glovers -- teammates Derek Jeter and Mark Teixeira brought home hardware, but the AL second base nod went to Placido Polanco, then with Detroit.

Cano hadn't exactly started clearing space in a display case, not in the happy aftermath of the World Series victory, but he was disappointed.

"Of course," Cano said. "Especially a guy like me that played 161 games, you know? You're in there every day. [Polanco] made less errors and we both played a lot of games, but those are things that [the writers] have to decide, not me. If not, you keep working harder for next year."

And next year seems to have arrived. Cano's defense has been stellar, committing three errors in his first 632 chances, a .995 fielding percentage.

Cano was boosted by a franchise record 81-game errorless streak at second base, which ran from April 23 to July 26, and of course there have been his share of appearances on national sportscasts with that across-the-body whip throw, which he insists has never been practiced.

"I would say the toughest part about making that throw is putting it right in his chest," Cano said. "Not one-hop or anything. That's something you've got to get rid of the ball really quick. You make that play in, say, 10 or 20 games.

"It's good, because most people think it's going to be a base hit."

Alex Rodriguez, who made a point of stressing a solid workout routine to Cano several years back, said that Cano has "the strongest and most accurate arm I've ever seen on a second baseman."

That's high praise from A-Rod, who wasn't done, calling Cano "very, very underrated defensively" -- not a bad turnaround for a player who was benched late in 2008 for what was perceived as careless play in the field.

"He's growing up right in front of our eyes," Rodriguez said. "He's slowly but surely become one of the elite players in our league. Everyone talks about hitting, but what he's doing power-wise in big situations and defensively, there's no question he's the best second baseman in baseball."

The advanced defensive statistics regard Cano highly, but they do introduce competition to Rodriguez's evaluation. Cano's Ultimate Zone Rating of 3.2 ranks fourth in baseball, and second in the American League to the Twins' Orlando Hudson, who leads the Majors with an 8.8 rating.

No matter, says Yankees infield coach Mick Kelleher. By the time the final plays are made in game No. 162, Kelleher believes Cano will have shown voters more than enough to lock up that elusive first Gold Glove award.

"I thought he should have had it last year," Kelleher said. "This year, it's his second very good year in a row. It's not always about making errors. I happen to be working with him every day and that's a pleasure. As you look around the league and view it, I haven't seen anybody even close. I think this is his year."

Kelleher played 15 seasons of professional ball, including 11 at the big league level, and has scouted untold numbers of players since beginning a coaching career in 1984. He isn't sure if he's ever seen anyone more comfortable at the position.

"He might be one of the best second basemen I've seen in my career [at] chasing down pop-ups," Kelleher said. "You don't think of that part, you think of catching ground balls. There's another aspect of defense that comes into play a lot; in the outfield, down the lines. He's tremendous.

"That's what's so good about his game. It has all come up to a very high level, whether he's fielding ground balls right at him, a slow roller going to his right on the backhand, pop-ups into the outfield, balls to his left, the double-play pivot. Break it all down, whatever you want on defense, and try to find somebody better. I haven't seen any."

Perhaps this will be the year that the voters agree. You can be sure that Cano will be paying attention.

"That's in every player's mind," Cano said. "You dream to have one of those. And it would be great to have one of those right now."

Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.