Will return to NY ignite the Cano Show for Seattle?

Cano, RobinsonThe big question around Robinson Cano’s return to New York seems to be whether or not he’ll get booed by his former Bronx fans when he makes his first appearance in Yankee Stadium wearing a Mariners uniform in today’s 4:05 p.m. PT  game.

Not to spoil it, but I can tell you the answer there will be a resounding yes. Yeah, most fans in New York will boo the heck out of Cano. He’s getting booed in Anaheim and Oakland and other visiting cities, apparently just because he took a lot of money to play for one of their rivals.

So New York fans, jilted by one of their own in the prime of a great career? Yeah, I’m assuming it’ll be A-Rod-returns-to-Safeco type treatment for Cano.

But the real question, for me, is how Cano handles the next three days on the field. Certainly Cano is a hit in New York – making appearances on The Tonight Show and doing an MTV spot yesterday on the Mariners’ off day in the Big Apple. But will Cano hit in New York? Will he use this Yankee Stadium appearance to start unleashing some of the expected power production the Mariners are paying $240 million for over the next 10 years?

Cano has been fine so far. He’s hit a team-leading .301 and put up 11 RBIs in his first 24 games with Seattle. But he has just one home run with five doubles and his .387 slugging percent is well below the .504 career mark he averaged in nine seasons in New York.

It’s surely not time to draw overwhelming conclusions about Cano’s tenure in Seattle. One need look back only to 2012 when Cano was hitting .255 with one home run, eight doubles and four RBIs with a .367 slugging percentage after his first 24 games with the Yankees.

That turned out to be one of Cano’s best years – he finished with a career-high 33 bombs and hit .313 with 48 doubles, 94 RBIs and a .550 slugging percentage. So, yeah, one month – particularly a cool April – does not make a season for any player.

The big question is whether Cano has enough help with the Mariners to force teams to pitch to him on a consistent basis. He acknowledges that teams aren’t giving him a whole lot to hit most at-bats, keeping the ball away for the most part and conceding singles to left rather than sharply-pulled balls to his power side. But Cano can drive the ball the opposite way as well as anybody in baseball and he’s begun to hit a few more doubles down the left-field line the past week.

If he keeps making teams pay for pitching him away consistently and gets around better on those offerings that are in his wheelhouse, the power production will come. For Cano, that doesn’t mean 40 home runs. He’s never been a 40-homer guy and he’s not likely to become one playing half his games at Safeco Field.

But he is more than a .740 OPS player, as he’s put up the first 24 games. He’s more than a one homer a month player. He’s a 40-plus double guy, a run-producing No. 3 hitter who can impact games more than he has to date.

It would be interesting if more of that impact started to surface in Yankee Stadium, with the eyes of New York on their former star. Should be a fun series, weather permitting. Ironically, while the sun is busting out in Seattle over the next few days, it’s chilly with rain in the forecast much of the next three days here in New York.

So Cano can feel at home either way in his old home. And the Mariners will see if — even with clouds overhead — their new star can shine bright on the big stage as they continue to find out just what $240 million does buy you these days in Major League Baseball.

By the way, if you missed it, Cano’s appearance on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon last night was epic. Here’s the clip.

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