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Cano, beard and all, back in the Bronx

Robinson Cano returns to New York hitting .301 with one home run for M’s. (Associated Press)
Robinson Cano returns to New York hitting .301 with one home run for M’s. (Associated Press)

‘It’s going to be weird’ he said of return to Yankee Stadium

SEATTLE – Robinson Cano stroked his beard and laughed. No, he’s not planning to shave for his return to Yankee Stadium today.

“No chance,” he said.

In nine seasons with the famously clean-shaven Yankees, Cano had 1,649 hits, 204 home runs, a .309 batting average and was a five-time All-Star. He also helped the Yankees win the 2009 World Series.

Now he’s back in New York with a new look, a new team and a new 10-year, $240 million contract he signed with the Mariners in December.

He can also probably expect a new greeting from Yankees fans – at least a few chilly Bronx boos – in his first game against his old club.

“It’s going to be weird,” Cano said. “Trust me, it’s going to feel a lot different being on the other side.”

Cano, surrounded by maybe a dozen Seattle media members, sat in the Mariners dugout before a game over the weekend and answered questions about his New York homecoming. In New York, the media mass will swell like church service on Easter Sunday.

“Hopefully good,” Cano said, when asked how he expects to be treated in New York. “The way that I left New York, it wasn’t a good way. You just go there to play the game and beat them.”

Cano turned down a seven-year, $175 million offer from the Yankees before signing with the Mariners.

“I didn’t feel respect,” he said during his introductory news conference in Seattle. “I didn’t get respect from them, and I didn’t see any effort.”

Last week, the Red Sox played a video tribute at Fenway Park when Jacoby Ellsbury returned to Boston as a member of the Yankees, who signed the former Red Sox center fielder for seven years and $153 million last winter. It’s unclear how Cano will be received at Yankee Stadium, but he expects to be “a little bit” emotional.

“He was a great player here,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi told reporters duringthe weekend. “He was a champion. He was a guy that played every day.

“I’ve often said that the one thing that maybe was overlooked about him a little bit was his toughness. We saw plenty of times he’d get hit by a pitch and you didn’t think he’d play the next day, and he would. That was Robbie. Robbie loved to play, and he had a great smile and a lot of times made it look really easy. He was a really, really good Yankee.”

Cano said he’s excited to catch up with old friends and old teammates – “especially” Derek Jeter, playing his final season with the Yankees before retiring. Cano also plans to walk around Manhattan, which can be difficult given his high-profile status.

“It’s really hard because I was there nine years and we won a championship and we were always in the playoffs. It’s tough,” he said. “But at the same time, I mean, they’re good fans and they give you privacy and I know I’ll be able to walk around.”

Cano was asked about the differences between playing in New York and Seattle.

“There’s a lot different,” he said. “You can see the way New York’s always crowded. The same thing, New York is a bigger city. It’s a team that has more championships, a team that always goes to the playoffs, a winning team. This, Seattle, is a different team, but like I said, we’ve got a team that – we can compete, and I’m excited to be here. That’s why I chose this city and I really like this city.”

Through 24 games, Cano is hitting .301 with one home run and 11 RBIs.