Classic MVP Cano set to help Yanks right off bat

Dominican hero back in lineup Thursday night, expected to play on the road Friday

Classic MVP Cano set to help Yanks right off bat

TAMPA, Fla. -- The pinstripes were waiting for Robinson Cano as he reported back to his locker at George M. Steinbrenner Field, his service with the victorious Dominican Republic World Baseball Classic club now complete.

While Cano will always have the memories of this year's Classic to cherish, along with the Most Valuable Player trophy that he earned by hitting at a feverish pace for the Dominicans, the Yankees second baseman said that he is ready to get back to business with his usual club.

"It's what you want," Cano said. "You want to go there and just win it all. Thank God we ended up winning, and I would say one job is already done, so now just focus in here and get ready for the season."

After traveling to Florida from San Francisco on Wednesday, Cano said that he did not need any more of a break following the Classic. Manager Joe Girardi put his name in Thursday's lineup, batting third and playing second base against the Twins.

Girardi said that he also expects Cano to play on Friday against Minnesota in Fort Myers, Fla., then take Saturday off. Girardi believes that Cano's time in the Classic could prove to be beneficial.

"The WBC, I'm going to guess, probably helped him because the intensity was there and he's physically in a pretty good position right now," Girardi said. "We don't have to necessarily play him every day the last week of Spring Training to get him in shape. He's played a bunch of nine-inning games, so it could help."

Playing for Yankees bench coach and Dominican manager Tony Pena in the Classic, Cano finished the tournament batting .469 (15-for-32) with four doubles, two home runs, six RBIs and six runs scored, leading all Classic players with 15 hits -- a single-Classic record.

"It means a lot, but it's not only about the MVP, it's about winning it all," Cano said. "The way we ended up winning, that's all that matters. You don't want to go out there thinking about yourself, it's all about winning."

Pena said that the Classic helped Cano to begin "starting to see himself like a leader," and Yankees chief international officer Felix Lopez said on Thursday that he believes the victory further proves the importance that the Yankees continue to search for talent in the Dominican Republic.

"Cano was a great leader," Lopez said. "I hope that winning attitude they showed in the Classic could rub a little bit on us and maybe he can be the leader that he was of that team and take us to great things."

Cano is returning to a club that badly needs him to continue swinging a hot bat, considering the Yankees' lineup figures to be without both Curtis Granderson and Mark Teixeira until at least early May.

"Hopefully I'll continue doing the same things I've been doing every year -- just go out there, play hard and help the team to win games," Cano said. "Hopefully the guys that we have help us to just stay in the race until you get Granderson and Teixeira back."

Bryan Hoch is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and read his MLBlog, Bombers Beat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.