The offense has picked up a little bit since McClendon said that, and the scout says that if recently acquired Kendrys Morales or someone else can get hot to help Cano and third baseman Kyle Seager, the Mariners will really be a force. Felix would certainly appreciate it. Asked what he thought of finally receiving some run support on Monday, Hernandez replied in almost Tony the Tiger fashion, "It feels grrrreatttttt."
What improvement there has been can be partly credited to Cano's influence.
"I'm not going to take away from what he does on the field, which is obviously special. But off the field, with the way he handles himself, he has a calming effect on everybody," said Seager, a first-time All-Star. "He shows you how to just stay with it and everything will be good. You never see him panic. Whether he's 0-for-5 or 5-for-5, he's the same guy. He's brought that demeanor to us, that if we don't get the job done today, we will tomorrow."
Cano shocked baseball last winter when he signed with the Mariners rather than re-sign with the Yankees or with another big-market team. Part of it was the money, naturally -- who would turn down $240 million? -- and part of it was King Felix encouraging him.
"I told him they will treat you like family. This is a great organization. You will love it here," Hernandez said. "I was just telling him the truth."
While Cano's power was down at the start of the season -- Safeco Field is not as kind to hitters as Yankee Stadium can be -- it's back a bit now. (He has 10 home runs.) His average has been there all along -- he's second in the league at .329.
As vital as Cano has been offensively, his defense has been important, too. His style is so relaxed that he makes every play look easy, even when it isn't. In Monday's game, he fielded a grounder with a runner heading from second to third. Most second baseman would have taken the easy out at first and let the runner advance to third. Not Cano. He fired to third and threw out the runner so easily that you wondered why more second baseman don't try that. He later caught a popup with his back to the plate, again making it look simple.
"There is only one guy who can make both of those plays in one game," Zunino said. "It's pretty impressive. There is never any sense of panic. He never rushes anything. It just shows you how good he is, and that play at third shows you he's always one step ahead."
McClendon, who was Detroit's hitting coach under Jim Leyland the past seven years, is also steps ahead of where he was managing the Pittsburgh Pirates from 2001 to 2005. Working with little talent, he went 336-446 and never had a winning season in Pittsburgh. His most infamous moment was when he got in an argument with an umpire and literally stole first base. (It's in this collection of "SportsCenter" Top 10 Sports Meltdowns.)
Reliever Joe Beimel pitched for McClendon during those years and says the manager has matured since then.
"He's quite a bit more calm than when I first came up," Beimel said. "He was dealing then with a lot of young guys. He was a little younger -- I was younger -- and I think over the years, working with Leyland and seeing how he went about things, has really transformed him into the manager he is now.