It took 25 days for Robinson Cano to make it through an entire Mets game.
The aggravation of his left quad injury on June 5 (he originally strained the quad May 22) against the Giants and an early exit let him know he wasn’t ready. And during his time rehabbing with Triple-A Syracuse, the injury lingered in the back of his mind, which he said was “the last thing” he wanted.
A hard, line-drive double to right field Sunday finally gave Cano a positive message.
“After I did what I did today, I feel confidence in myself,” Cano said after the Mets’ 4-3 loss to the Cardinals on Sunday at Citi Field.
The second baseman went 1-for-3 with a run scored and one strikeout as the Mets missed an opportunity to split with St. Louis. But Cano said he felt good about his performance in his first game back.For the first time this season, Cano batted fifth, as opposed to his usual spot hitting third. Manager Mickey Callaway explained that the decision to slide the 36-year-old down the batting order was a calculated one, taking into consideration Cano may need time to get his swing back and that the absence from the starting lineup of Amed Rosario and Jeff McNeil left holes to be filled.
But none of the logistics meant much to Cano.
“You’re only going to hit fifth in the first inning, but after that you don’t know where you’re going to hit,” Cano told The Post. “For me, nothing changes. You’re in the lineup, it doesn’t matter where you hit.”
Cano added that he felt confident batting behind Dominic Smith, J.D. Davis, Michael Conforto and Pete Alonso. Those four generated five hits in 15 at-bats.
As with McNeil, who spent time on the IL earlier this season with a left hamstring strain, Callaway hopes to closely manage Cano’s workload as he battles back to being 100 percent. McNeil, who last sat out on June 9 against the Rockies, is currently taking off day games that directly follow night games. Callaway hopes to design a suitable schedule for Cano.
The eight-time All-Star and Callaway have yet to discuss how he will be managed going forward.
“The thing we think about when we try to prepare all of our players — obviously you take age into factor — but you just try to put a good schedule together, a good plan together, a good [rehabilitation] together for everyone, to limit injuries the best that you can,” Callaway said.
Cano has set his sights on facing the Braves and Phillies, hoping those two upcoming road series, with a trip to face the Cubs in between, will challenge the Mets and give them an opportunity to close the gap in the NL East.