JUPITER, Fla. – The “numbers don’t matter in spring training” portion of camp is reaching an end.
Michael Conforto said he’s gearing it up now that there are only eight Grapefruit League games remaining. One of the many ways he’s finding success at the plate starts from the on-deck circle.
The outfielder has had the opportunity to follow Robinson Cano in the lineup and mimic the second baseman’s approach at the plate. From waiting to pounce on a good pitch to poking a hit against the shift, Conforto is adapting to Cano’s baseball mentality.
“He’s a guy that every day, you see the same thing,” Conforto said. “Same effort level. You know what you’re going to get every day he comes to the ballpark. That’s the kind of player I’m trying to be. It’s really good for me to be able to watch that.”
Cano, an eight-time All-Star and a career .304 hitter, knows younger athletes are leaning on him to get a closer look and find similar success in their careers.
Cano said he enjoys being a leader for his new Mets team, and if his advice to younger athletes is setting an example to help the team win, that’s all that matters.
“I get questions from a few of the players,” Cano said. “And being the veteran and knowing what I know, the knowledge that I have for the game, knowing that I have to do the right thing… I have to be out there and be ready. I don’t want to say they rely on me, but I know that they are watching.
“A lot of people say, ‘Robby has a good swing,’ and this and that, and that’s one of the things that I like to be prepared for. I always like to be prepared. I’m always open to any question, any advice. I hope that I can help them and be the leader for the team.”
With Cano serving as a sponge for athletes in their prime like Conforto, the second baseman is prepped to make a booming difference for the Mets in more ways than with just his bat and glove.
The two-time Gold Glove winner credits legendary Yankees for his unique ability to carry a winning mentality to every diamond he jogs onto. He too, like Conforto, leaned on veteran superstars to help improve his game when he first fell in love with major league baseball.
“I look back and remind myself how I used to go ask (Derek) Jeter, A-Rod, (Jorge) Posada, Bernie (Williams), all those veteran players that were around and were able and accountable for whenever we had any questions or any advice,” Cano said. “Those are the things, the little bit that I know, that I want to be able to pass along to the young kids.”
Though Cano has the wisdom of an athlete approaching his age 36 season, he doesn’t view himself as a veteran player.
On Wednesday, manager Mickey Callaway said Cano asked him to play the next six consecutive spring training games. Cano said he asked the skipper to jot the second baseman’s name into the lineup for almost a week so that his body gets used to playing every day.
“This is the National League,” Cano said. “You don’t get a DH here. So when the season starts I don’t want to feel the soreness or anything like that.”
Over 14 years playing in the major leagues (nine with the Yankees and five with the Mariners) Cano has accrued 311 home runs, 1,233 RBIs, 1,188 runs scored and 534 doubles. He owns a World Series ring, is a five-time Silver Slugger, an All-Star MVP and a serious Hall of Fame candidate, were it not for the PED blemish that cost him 80 games last year.
Despite the long and saturated resume of success, Cano said he just feels like a young guy who has the responsibility to go out there and do his job.
“He puts the work in,” Conforto said. “It might look like it’s all so easy for him, but he really does put the work in. Behind the scenes, you just don’t get to see that, as a fan, as somebody just watching the game. He lengthens our lineup. He’s going to be a big part of our success this year and I hope I can learn a little bit from him.”