The first time Robinson Cano stepped onto Safeco Field, he grounded out to Willie Bloomquist. How's that for a bit of irony?
It was 2005 and the 22-year-old infielder was riding the ups and downs of his first major league season -- though, if we're being honest, they were mostly ups. A month after Opening Day, the Yankees plucked Cano from his second stint with the Triple-A Columbus Clippers, where he was raking .333/.368/.574 through 24 games.
Aaron Sele was less fortunate the second time Cano came to bat. Against the 35-year-old, the rookie second baseman whacked a double past Jeremy Reed in center field, his sixth extra base hit in five games and the only one allowed by Sele that evening. The Mariners' right-hander wasn't exactly a force to be reckoned with, however, distributing six walks and five hits to a lineup featuring Bernie Williams, Derek Jeter, and former teammates Tino Martinez and Alex Rodriguez.
By the time Sele was pulled from the game, Cano had caught his second wind. He picked a base hit off of reliever Jeff Nelson, coming around to score as A-Rod chopped a ball to third baseman Adrian Beltre. The Yankees weren't hurting for run support, though, especially considering Bernie Williams' mammoth grand slam in the prior inning. As Mariano Rivera came in to close out a 9-3 win, Cano deftly turned a double play before resting on his heels and letting Rivera finish off the last batter, something no one wants to be: Miguel Olivo's replacement, pinch-hitter Greg Dobbs.
Cano polished off his rookie season in the way that most prospects dream of. He made 132 appearances for the Yankees, who cruised to the postseason on a 95-67 record. A .297 average and 14 home runs -- good for a bWAR of 0.8 -- bought Cano a place in the American League Rookie of the Year voting, second only to the Athletics' Huston Street, who debuted with a sparkly 1.72 ERA and the third-highest bWAR (2.9) for an AL reliever.
From 2005 to 2013, Cano played another 39 games in Seattle. In a 2-0 shutout showcasing a pinstriped Randy Johnson, the Yankees' slugger took Felix Hernandez deep for the first run of the game. Two years prior, against a plethora of Seattle pitchers -- Doug Fister, Jason Vargas, Carlos Silva -- Cano collected three doubles in a single game, a feat he's accomplished four times in his career, twice against the Mariners.
Before blind Yankees hatred begins to wrap your head in a fog, take a step back and inhale deeply. Remember that in 125 days, Robinson Cano will be donning Northwest Green and stepping back onto the M's on-deck circle... this time as a Mariner. We can only hope that his debut -- and the remainder of his career -- will be as memorable and awe-inspiring as the past nine years have been.
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