PEORIA, Ariz. -- After undergoing double hernia surgery in October to deal with a stomach issue that affected him more than he wanted to let on last season, Robinson Cano took to the field for the first day of full-squad workouts with the Mariners on Thursday and said he's eager for the fresh start.
Cano endured the worst first half of his career last season, then surprisingly hit better -- batting .330 in the final 92 games -- while dealing with the stomach issue that made it difficult for him to run and limited his range in the field.
But Cano said he feels "98 percent" now physically, and he is looking to start anew from the get-go in a camp filled with fresh faces and a new manager in Scott Servais. And, yes, last year's slow start serves as motivation.
"Of course," Cano said. "My season is going to start today for me. It's something that as a player, you don't want to go through that. You have that slow start and then you have to rush to get back into the season. I want to start fresh from the first day of Spring Training."
Cano took the opportunity on the first day of workouts to clear the air on a couple of offseason issues:
• How much was he bothered last year by his stomach ailment?
"It affected me a lot," Cano said. "There were times I wouldn't be able to sleep or stuff like that. But I'm the kind of guy that doesn't like to look for excuses. It was a hard time for me, and only my family knows that. There was a day I just told the trainer, 'I can't do this anymore. We have to find a way, because my body feels like 40. Sometimes I'm on the field and just run to first base and I feel so tired.' But thank God that I'm healthy and I'm back, and hopefully I'm healthy this year."
• Was he hurt by critical comments by former outfield coach Andy Van Slyke that received considerable publicity?
"Honestly, it didn't hurt me, because coming from a guy like him, it doesn't bother me at all," Cano said. "Because I know how I played. You guys know. If you heard the comments, first he threw me under the bus, and then he was like what's so great about myself. You didn't know what he was trying to say. Andy ... it doesn't even matter to me.
"A lot of people called me, and I said, 'I'm not going to waste my time and say anything back.' I got a call from the Mariners apologizing because he said all that stuff. He was a guy that always talked to me. Then he says that. I don't know how come he said everybody got fired because of me."
• And regarding another report out of New York that he's unhappy in Seattle and wants to return to the Yankees:
"I never said that," Cano said. "I don't know where they find … they always say 'the source' or 'friend.' I never talked to a friend or nobody. I will tell you guys, I'm happy to be here and happy to get my chance here to be able to play to the end of my career and have fun with the guys and a city that has treated me so nice. Even you guys in the media. I haven't said that."
Cano's main message Thursday was that he's excited for the new year and looking forward to getting to know the host of new teammates in camp after a busy offseason by new general manager Jerry Dipoto. While Cano, Nelson Cruz, Felix Hernandez and Kyle Seager remain as the team's core group, the rest of the roster has undergone considerable turnover with less-heralded veterans brought in to raise the level of play up and down the lineup.
"I would say for a team to win, you don't need big names. You just need the right pieces," Cano said. "I think that's what Jerry has done."
Having Cano get off to a faster start would go a long way toward helping the Mariners improve on last year's 76-86 mark. Servais said he's talked to hitting coach Edgar Martinez about Cano's year, which saw him hit .238 through 74 games before heating up.
"The thing that Edgar explained to me is that Robbie got back to using the whole field," Servais said. "Don't get caught up in the home runs and be a good hitter. Take your doubles -- which, he is a doubles machine -- and get back to using the whole field. I think that's what he did in the second half. I think he did a better job hitting deeper in the count with two strikes.
"He's a great player. But there are going to be times when you struggle for a month and you get out of rhythm or whack and you don't feel, physically, real good. There may be some ailments that you guys don't know about that are going on behind the scenes. That does happen."