The New York Mets have a familiar name starting at an unfamiliar position as part of their exhibition game on Thursday against the Washington Nationals. Robinson Canó, traditionally a second baseman, will be tasked with defending first base. Canó’s experimentation at the cold corner is part of New York’s efforts to improve his defensive versatility ahead of the start of the regular season.
“He’s still going to play some second base, but he’s so excited to be back with the team and being in a position to contribute,” manager Buck Showalter said on Wednesday, according to the Associated Press. Showalter added that Canó would be doing side work at first base ahead of Thursday’s game in order to ready him for his trial run.
Canó, 39 years old, missed all of last season after testing positive for a banned substance. In 2020, he appeared in 49 games and batted .316/.352/.544 (143 OPS+) with 10 home runs and nine doubles. The Mets are expected to use Canó as their primary designated hitter.
Canó has appeared at first base before during his big-league career, albeit infrequently. He’s accumulated 14 appearances and 88 innings at the cold corner over the course of his 16-season career. For comparison, Canó has appeared in more than 2,150 games at the keystone, where he’s a two-time Gold Glove Award recipient.
The Mets seem unlikely to use Canó at first base too often. Even if Pete Alonso were to suffer an injury that would require him to miss time, Showalter could call upon Dominic Smith, himself a left-handed hitter. Still, it never hurts to have one additional contingency plan in place, and it’s not as though Canó’s hitting is likely to be impacted by the decision to try him at another spot during spring training’s waning days.