Seven-time All-Star has been an effective mentor to Diaz, Marte
By Maddie Lee
SEATTLE -- With one on and one out in the bottom of the ninth, Robinson Cano trotted to the mound to tell Edwin Diaz to relax. It wasn't the first time he had done so, but the stakes were higher on Aug. 2, in Diaz's first game as closer.
"Sometimes he jokes with me," Diaz said. "One time he came and told me, 'Hey, if you don't want to pitch, give me the ball. I'll pitch for you.'"
On that crucial Tuesday night, it was all words of encouragement. After Cano jogged back to his spot at second, Diaz struck out the next two batters to end the game and earn his first save.
That's how Cano, 33, elevates young talent. With his easygoing playing style, big smile and desire to teach, the veteran second baseman has been especially effective mentoring young Spanish-speaking Major Leaguers such as Diaz and shortstop Ketel Marte.
The Yankees brought Cano up to the Majors in 2005, when the team was stacked. He started among players such as Jorge Posada, Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, Bernie Williams, Gary Sheffield and Jason Giambi. Cano finished second in votes for American League Rookie of the Year.
"When you play with all those guys, anywhere you look, you have superstars and future Hall of Famers," Cano said. "You appreciate where you are. And you appreciate coming up in an organization where you can ask anyone, and you can watch anyone in your lineup, so you can learn."
In Cano's last year in New York, that wasn't the case anymore. He was one of the few stars left in 2013, and he became the one to look after the younger generation.
"It's the same thing they did for me in New York," Cano said. "So why not pass it along to the other young guys?"
When the Mariners signed Cano after the 2013 season, he brought that legacy to Seattle. He has a knack for slowing the game down. On routine plays, it almost looks like he's sleepwalking. But when he needs to get to a ball in the gap, suddenly the veteran has a spring in his step.
The game tends to speed up on rookies, but Cano helped Marte combat that last year.
"Every play that I made, he just told me, 'Hey, you've got to play like that,'" Marte said. "He makes you good."
When Diaz falters, it's also because he's rushing, though those moments are fewer and farther between as he settles into his new role as closer.
"It's the hardest when you have to close the game," Cano said. "It looks easy, but it's not. And I know it's hard when you're in a situation you've never been in before."
With a few pep talks from Cano along the way, Diaz has earned five saves and allowed just one run in his past six outings.
Almost every day before changing into his uniform, Diaz wears a shirt with Cano's logo on it. He got it after Cano made his seventh All-Star Game appearance this year.
"I feel proud for him," Diaz said. "He made it, and I can support him."
Maddie Lee is a reporter for MLB.com based in Seattle. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.