A day after it was revealed in his new book that the all-time saves leader would take Boston's Dustin Pedroia at second base, Cano, now with the Seattle Mariners, insisted he still respects his longtime former teammate as the best ever, no matter what.
"Everybody has a different opinion. That's his opinion and I have to respect his opinion," Cano said before Tuesday night's game against the Oakland Athletics. "I'm not going to go too far into this. That's the only thing that I can say. My focus right now is this team.
"I'm here, we're winning," Cano said. "I was over there already and now I'm here and now I'm focused on the team. I'm going to be excited for my teammates."
Rivera played nine seasons with Cano. Rivera retired after last year, and Cano left the Yankees in the offseason and joined the Mariners on a 10-year, $240 million contract as the new centerpiece of the franchise.
In the book, "The Closer: My Story," which was released Tuesday, Rivera says "nobody plays harder" than Pedroia and that he didn't "think Robby burns to be the best. ... You don't see that red-hot passion in him that you see in most elite players."
Cano, who has played at least 159 games in each of the past seven years, said he will let those numbers provide all the necessary information.
"Everybody knows I play 160 games," Cano said. "How does Mariano feel? I respect that and I'm always going to have respect for him, a guy that I spent nine years with and for me is always going to be the best closer. That's how I feel."
Seattle manager Lloyd McClendon said Cano's durability shows plenty about his love for the game and desire to be great and stay in the lineup every day.
McClendon added he was "surprised" to learn of Rivera's remarks regarding Cano.
"I'm extremely proud, I'm humbled and I feel blessed to be able to manage a guy of Robinson Cano's character and his ability to play the game of baseball," McClendon said. "He's a Seattle Mariner and I'm proud to have him.
"One thing I know about human nature, I don't know what Robinson Cano is feeling inside, just like you don't know what I'm feeling inside. It's impossible for me to justify that or answer that. All I can tell you is check the book -- he plays 160, 162 games a year. I think that's pretty good passion.
"The last nine years, he's been the best second baseman in baseball, offensively and defensively, and the awards and the numbers back it up."
In the end, Rivera decides on Pedroia.
"There is no doubt that he is a Hall of Fame-caliber talent," Rivera says of Cano in his book. "It's just a question of whether he finds the drive that you need to get there."
But when he turns to Pedroia, it's more than clear he's not pulling punches.
"He comes at you hard for 27 outs. It's a special thing to see," Rivera says of Pedroia, adding: "If I have to win one game, I'd have a hard time taking anybody over Dustin Pedroia as my second baseman."
Pedroia said Tuesday that he was honored to receive that kind of praise from Rivera.