PORT ST. LUCIE — Robinson Cano joined the Mets last season wanting to play every game, and that goal hasn’t changed, even at 37 years old and coming off an injury-plagued 2019.
So a prearranged workload reduction isn’t something Cano seems willing to embrace. He was asked Friday about the possibility of setting 125-130 games as a goal for the season.
“Once you set those kind of goals, 125, it’s kind of like for a guy that loves this game, loves to play baseball, loves to be out on the field, you don’t want to have that mindset,” Cano said. “Once you go into the season, you go play out every day. It depends how you feel, I think I would rather go by that and see how I feel, since I played 15 or 20 days in a row, I can say, ‘You know what, I think I need a day off today.’
“I would rather go like that then just set a goal that every five or 10 games you are going to be off, because what happens if I feel good and I am doing good? You are going to sit down today and then later on you get in a slump or whatever it is, I think I would rather go by that and see how I feel.”
Cano played his first Grapefruit League game of this spring training Friday, going 0-for-1 with a walk as the DH against the Cardinals. He expects to remain in that DH spot for another game before playing second base on Tuesday.
The progression is part of a plan to build up Cano’s legs. Last season he appeared in just 107 games, enduring two stints on the injured list for a quadriceps injury before sustaining a torn left hamstring. Cano returned in September from the hamstring injury after only a three-week absence, and was productive for the Mets in the final stretch.
“I’ve never been in the situation I was in last year, so it’s kind of like I want to work more on my legs, and not playing the first five or six games [of spring training] is not going to make any difference,” Cano said. “It’s kind of like a lot of work and keep strengthening my legs and get ready for the season.”
He’s unsure of how many at-bats it will take to prepare him for the season, but Cano isn’t concerned. The numbers on his mind for now relate to the percentage strength of his hamstring, which he says is “really good,” with a goal of reaching well-above average.
“Just go out and keep strengthening, you don’t want to just be OK,” Cano said. “Now it feels good, so I want to keep doing that for the next three or four weeks we have here and when we go into the season I think it’s going to make it easier for us.”
New manager Luis Rojas said his only goal for Cano is health. At this stage Rojas deems it counterproductive to establish a range of games for Cano.
“We’ve had conversations about it and we’re just going to go like that,” Rojas said. “We are going to plan day to day and we’re not going to put a number. We’re not going to set a goal, like a number of games he’s going to play, and we talked about that. Our goal is to leave camp healthy, strong, and then we’ll go by games.”
Cano named Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter, among others, who played into their late 30s on an everyday basis.
“And not only go out, but perform at a high level, that is what really as a kid you always dream,” Cano said. “I want to be like that when I get to that age, because you never know what the future is going to bring.”