Yankees brass proud to welcome back champion Cano

Felix Lopez stood on the top step of the New York Yankees’

dugout, chewing on an unlit cigar stub and flashing the smile of a

proud father.

Second baseman Robinson Cano was back on the field with the

Yankees after leading the Dominican Republic to the championship of

the World Baseball Classic and Lopez greeted him with a big hug

near the batting cage.

”His success with the Dominican Republic just shows he’s a

great player and we’re proud of him,” said Lopez, the Yankees’

chief international officer. ”I’ve seen him since he was a baby

and I call him my son sometimes because he grew up in this

organization.”

Cano, a four-time All-Star who returned to camp Thursday, was

MVP of the WBC after hitting .469 with two homers and six RBIs.

Now, it’s back to work with the Yankees, who are battling injuries

and skeptics as the regular season nears.

Cano singled and scored in the Yankees’ 6-1 loss to Minnesota in

his first game back.

”You want to go there and just win it all,” he said. ”I would

say one job is already done, so now I just focus in here and get

ready for the season.”

Lopez, the son-in-law of former Yankees owner George

Steinbrenner, was born in Cuba. But he watched the WBC with a close

eye on the Dominican Republic for a few reasons. Of course, Lopez

wanted to see Cano play and Yankees bench coach Tony Pena manage

the team. Also, the Yankees hosted the Dominican Republic squad at

their spring-training complex before the tournament.

”We have a very tight relationship with the people of the

Dominican Republic,” Lopez said. ”We have an academy there. We

have great players coming up throughout all levels of the minor

leagues. We have great players on the major league team right now.

We have a great relationship with the government of the Dominican

Republic and we are very proud that we were a little part of their

success with their home field being here.”

The injury-depleted Yankees are missing Alex Rodriguez, Mark

Teixeira and Curtis Granderson going into the regular season. If

they don’t end up winning a 28th World Series title, at least they

had a connection to one championship this year.

”We are very proud the Dominican Republic won,” Lopez said.

”Maybe some of their great achievement will rub off on us.”

There was a down side to the WBC for the Yankees. Teixeira

sustained a partially torn tendon sheath in his right wrist on

March 5 while with the U.S. team. He could miss up to two months of

the regular season.

”It’s always a major concern and sometimes we walk on pins and

needles when we see one of our players go over there and go all-out

so early in the season,” Lopez said. ”It’s something we have to

weigh. It’s great for the Dominican Republic to win, but it’s hard

to have a situation like Teixeira get hurt. But that’s part of the

game. If he didn’t get hurt there, he could’ve gotten hurt coming

out of his house and falling down the steps.”

For Lopez and others, injuries don’t take away from the WBC.

”I think it was a great success,” he said. ”It’s a good thing

we have passionate teams like the Dominican Republic playing for

their country. It was unique to see that camaraderie between all

those players and all that excitement they brought to the

game.”

Follow Rob Maaddi on Twitter: https://twitter.com/RobMaaddi