Cano enters Midsummer Classic rejuvenated

After injury-plagued 2015, Mariners second baseman enjoying bounce-back year

Cano enters Midsummer Classic rejuvenated

SAN DIEGO -- After undergoing double hernia surgery this offseason and enjoying a healthy first half to the 2016 season, Mariners second baseman Robinson Cano is back at the All-Star Game (tonight at 7:30 p.m. ET on FOX) for the seventh time, in addition to making his fourth appearance in the T-Mobile Home Run Derby.

The 2015 season saw Cano enter the All-Star break hitting .251/.290/.370 with just six home runs. This year, the 33-year-old second baseman has been back to his usual self, hitting .313/.368/.555 with 21 home runs -- as many as he hit in 2015 -- and a league-leading 202 total bases.

That production has come with improved health for Cano, as he is making more contact in the zone -- 93.5 percent this season compared to just 90.4 percent last season, the second lowest of his career -- and becoming more patient at the plate.

"When you have patience, you swing at your pitch and you can take more walks," Cano said.

While Cano's walk rate this season (7.1 percent) isn't quite as high as his best years with the Yankees, it's an improvement over last season's 6.4 percent and has helped him to 4.6 WAR (according to Baseball Reference) that ranks fourth in the Majors.

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Cano entered the Derby swinging a hot bat, hitting .417/.462/.694 in his past nine games. He's helping the Mariners stay afloat in the American League Wild Card race, as they hope to end their 15-year playoff drought, which is the longest in the Majors. Seattle sits five games behind Toronto for the second AL Wild Card spot.

Last year's All-Star absence snapped a streak of five straight Midsummer Classics for Cano, who was most excited about the Home Run Derby because his son will be watching.

"I'm doing it this year because of my son," Cano said. "I want my son to have that experience. It's one of those things where you can have more fun than the All-Star Game, because you get one or two at-bats and then you're out of the game."

Cano was looking to win the event for the second time, having taken the crown during his first Derby in 2011. He again had his father Jose throwing to him, and his dad has been throwing batting practice every day to prepare.

"I'm not trying to hit the ball out of the stadium," Cano said before the Home Run Derby. "I'm just going to have the same swing that I have during the game. ... That's how you get in trouble, because you get out of your zone and you're trying to swing too hard."

Cano's unfavorable matchup with Giancarlo Stanton proved as difficult as it seemed before the event started, with the Seattle second baseman falling in the first round after hitting just seven homers compared to 24 from Stanton, the eventual champion.

Carlos Collazo is a reporter for MLB.com based in San Diego. Follow him on Twitter @CarlosACollazo. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.