Robinson Cano’s Mets role in first game may be sign of things to come

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Every game matters more than ever. Every at-bat is amplified.

Luis Rojas couldn’t afford to be shy in his first game as Mets manager.

After triggering anger, fear and confusion among countless Mets fans by batting 37-year-old Robinson Cano third in recent exhibition games and scrimmages, Rojas had the eight-time All-Star hit sixth in Friday’s season-opening 1-0 win over the Braves at Citi Field. Cano, a two-time Gold Glove winner at second base, was also pulled in the eighth inning in favor of defensive replacement Andres Gimenez, who was making his major league debut.

In his first year with the Mets, Cano had a career-worst .256 batting average and a .736 OPS, the second-worst mark of his first 15 seasons. Still, Cano hit third in 58 of 107 games last season, while hitting lower than fifth in the lineup on just eight occasions.

So, when Rojas’ first-ever lineup card was displayed, an empty stadium couldn’t mask the celebration among Mets fans.

Robinson Cano
Robinson CanoN.Y. Post: Charles Wenzelberg

“We played around with the guys in different spots in the lineup and we have guys that have the ability to hit in different spots in the lineup. There’s so much depth,” Rojas said before the game. “Doing it in the spring, a lot of times we’re doing it to get at-bats. A lot of times it was to get the feel on some sequences, seeing guys hitting one behind the other. To face certain pitchers, different things like that. But today, this is our Opening Day lineup. … We feel that our lineup is the one that’s going to help us achieve a win today.”

Rojas wouldn’t commit to future lineup plans.

“I don’t believe much in one lineup set or [if] one lineup wins it’s gotta stay,” Rojas said. “There’s a lot to take into consideration. I had talks with the guys, just so they can have an anticipation where in the lineup they could be hitting throughout the season. A lot of that is going to be determined [by] the pitcher we’re facing. Also how the guys are swinging the bat is going to come into play.”

Once the Mets took the lead in the bottom of the seventh, Rojas opted to pull Cano — who went 1-for-3 — for a 21-year-old who’d never stepped onto a major league field.

“One of the things that I prioritize is communication. I talk ahead with the guys about what may happen in a game and that’s something me and Robbie and other players on the team have talked about,” Rojas said. “We want to be out there probably having the best defenders at the end of the game. Cano is a solid defender, but Gimenez has a little bit more range to the side and can cover a little more ground than Cano can.

“We gotta be humble enough that there’s somebody that’s gonna come in there and get the at-bat, passing the glove, passing the bat, passing the wheels with pinch-running, too. We gotta be humble enough.”

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