Sat, May 27, 2006 - Page 19 News List

Cabrera and Cano shadow each other

MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL Robinson Cano and Melky Cabrera car pool when the Yankees play at home, and while on the road the teammates are all but inseparable

NY TIMES NEWS SERVICE AND AP , NEW YORK

New York Yankees, from left, Randy Johnson, Bubba Crosby, Melky Cabrera and Robinson Cano in the dugout while watching the ninth inning of their game against the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park in Boston on Monday. Boston defeated New York 9-5.

PHOTO: AP

If you want to find Melky Cabrera, just look for Robinson Cano. Chances are Cabrera will be with him.

"They're like shadows of each other," said Alex Rodriguez, the Yankees' third baseman. "I call him `The Shadow.' They're always together, tied at the hip."

Cano carried a bat around the Fenway Park clubhouse on Wednesday. So did Cabrera. They went out to the batting cage under the center-field stands for early hitting practice, and as they walked across the field after finishing, the Boston stars Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz intercepted them for hugs and friendly banter.

Did Cano have a minute to talk about Cabrera? Not yet. "I have to go show him something on the computer," Cano said. But first, he and Cabrera sat in the dugout for a long chat with the first-base coach Tony Pena.

"When you come to the big leagues, sometimes you find yourself lost," Pena said. "But having Cano around, he's really taken care of Cabrera."

Wednesday's game was a revelation. Cabrera came in with a .306 average, and he had already been proving himself, working an 11-pitch walk to wear down the Mets' Billy Wagner in the ninth inning of a comeback victory last Saturday.

But on Wednesday, after sitting out the previous game, Cabrera hit leadoff to give Johnny Damon a rest. Cabrera singled twice and drove in four runs, leading the Yankees to an 8-6 victory, their second in three games against the Red Sox.

The schedule was to get easier last night, with the first of three home games against the floundering Kansas City Royals, who have lost 13 straight.

"I didn't really know, batting him leadoff," manager Joe Torre said after Wednesday's game. "He doesn't say a whole lot, so you don't know, emotionally, what it's going to do to him. But he looked very comfortable there. He certainly is playing at the level he's capable of playing at."

With Hideki Matsui possibly out for the season with a broken left wrist, the switch-hitting Cabrera, 21, is taking advantage of his latest chance. He is batting .325, and he capably handled the quirky right field at Fenway this week.

Cabrera will shift to left field this weekend, with Gary Sheffield expected to be back in right. Cabrera has looked shaky in left, but his overall performance has stamped him as major league ready, the way Cano was when the Yankees promoted him last May.

"Both of them are very similar in the fact that they're having fun," Torre said. "I don't think they understand the pressure most people understand here. They're just out there playing baseball."

When Cano began his career in a deep slump last season, he still seemed to belong. But Cabrera failed his July audition, and the Yankees demoted him after six games. He went 4 for 19 and played an adventurous center field.

"We pushed it too hard, too soon," General Manager Brian Cashman said. "But this year, it seems the timing is a little bit better."

Cabrera said that an off-season of winter ball at home in the Dominican Republic helped. The presence of Cano, another Dominican just two years older than he is, is also important.

"Robby always hangs out with him," infielder Miguel Cairo said, translating Cabrera's answers after Wednesday's game. "He's been telling him a lot about staying here."

For young players anywhere -- and especially on the Yankees -- the start of a career is a lesson in survival. Last season, Cabrera's demotion came immediately after he misplayed a hit into an inside-the-park homer in Boston. Now his spot is safe, especially with Bubba Crosby joining Matsui on the disabled list.

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