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Cano, Liriano AL's top player, pitcher for April

Cano, Liriano AL's top player, pitcher for April

Getting off to a good start is preached about often in the Major Leagues.

And no one did that better in the American League this year than Yankees second baseman Robinson Cano and Twins starter Francisco Liriano, who were named the AL Player and Pitcher of the Month, respectively, on Monday.

In a star-studded infield that features the likes of Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter and Mark Teixeira, it was Cano who stood out thanks to his eight homers, 18 RBIs, 21 runs scored and Major League-best .400 batting average in April.

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Liriano, meanwhile, has looked like the Liriano of 2006. The 26-year-old left-hander, who went into Spring Training competing for the fifth-starter spot in the Twins' rotation, finished the opening month 3-0, with an ultra-slim 0.93 ERA.

Liriano finished April as the only AL starter with a sub-1.00 ERA. During his final start of the month, against a high-powered Tigers offense, he struck out a season-high 10 while hurling a masterful eight shutout innings, prompting opposing manager Jim Leyland to say, "That's the best I've seen him for quite a while. He looks like he's obviously back to where he was."

Liriano also had a 23-inning scoreless streak -- second only to Johan Santana (2004) since 1993 for Minnesota -- and didn't allow a single home run. He finished surrendering just three earned runs on 18 hits in 29 innings.

Cano, meanwhile, became one of just four Yankees in the expansion era (since 1961) to bat .400 in April through a minimum of 50 plate appearances, joining Clete Boyer ('62), Willie Randolph ('76) and Paul O'Neill ('94 and '96).

The 27-year-old reached base safely in 21 of his 22 April games, notched 11 multihit games -- including a four-hit performance against the Angels on April 24 -- and added four multi-RBI games. He became just the second AL player to record a .400 batting average with eight home runs for the month since the expansion era, joining Manny Ramirez (2001).

Cano was also named Player of the Month in September 2006.

"It feels good -- not because I'm having a great season but because the team is winning," Cano, now batting .387 with nine homers through 24 games for the 16-8 Yankees, said recently. "I get on base for my teammates. What matters here is just winning games."

The runner-up for Player of the Month was Tigers first baseman Miguel Cabrera, who batted .344 with eight homers and a Major League-leading 25 RBIs for April. Finishing in second for Pitcher of the Month was Rays starter Matt Garza, who went 4-1 with a 2.06 ERA.

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

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