CAP CANA, Dominican Republic — David Ortiz invites all of his Red Sox teammates to the celebrity golf tournament he has hosted the last five years, understanding that most won’t be able to make it for various reasons.
Only young relievers Mark Melancon and Clayton Mortensen were able to attend this year. But Robinson Cano, who has become the best player on the Yankees, makes sure he comes to support Ortiz every year.
Cano doesn’t play golf. But he looks at Ortiz like an older brother and puts aside the rivalry between the Sox and Yankees for the sake of charity.
And, Cano readily admits, he has no enmity for any of the Red Sox players. The rivalry exists more in the hearts of the fans than it does on the field.
Cano would even happily welcome former Red Sox infielder Kevin Youkilis to the Yankees.
Youkilis, who was traded to the White Sox in June, is a free agent and weighing offers from the Yankees and Indians. New York has $12 million on the table for one season, Cleveland $18 million for two years.
The Indians offer a chance for Youkilis to play for Terry Francona again. He also is from Ohio, having been born in Cincinnati. But choosing the Yankees means having a better chance at returning to the postseason.
With Alex Rodriguez expected to miss at least half of the coming season because of a left hip injury that will require surgery, Youkilis could play a significant role with the Yankees.
Seeing Youkilis in pinstripes would be strange, but Cano hopes that will be the choice Youkilis makes.
“Everything stays on the field,’’ said Cano. “I’ve gotten a chance to talk to him and he’s a nice guy. I’ve had a chance to meet him at the All-Star Game, and he always seemed cool in talking with everybody.
“There’s some guys that, the way they play the game, you say this guy is not a nice person, but he’s a great person.’’
Youkilis has antagonized the Yankees over the years with his aggressive style, and it’s probably no coincidence that their pitchers have hit him 17 times — five times last season alone.
Joba Chamberlain sailed two fastballs over Youkilis’s head in 2007 and was suspended for two games. Youkilis had to be restrained when he stepped toward the mound in 2008 after Chamberlain threw a pitch up and in that sent him sprawling in the dirt.
Cano laughed at the idea of Youkilis sharing a clubhouse with Chamberlain.
“It would be nice,’’ he said. “But those kind of things, I don’t think [Chamberlain] ever hit him on purpose. I would tell you that he would be the first guy who would be happy to see him on our team because we know he’s the kind of guy who would help us a lot because he’s been in a situation like that before. He can hit and he plays the game the right way.’’
Regardless of whom the Yankees add to their infield, the loss of Rodriguez for an extended period is significant. He is already playing with a surgically repaired right hip and, at 37, may be done playing third base on a regular basis.
“I was surprised because he ended up the season good,’’ said Cano. “He ended up playing. It was nothing you expect, for him to get hurt and get another hip surgery. Hopefully everything will go right and we’ll see him on the field in the next four, five, or six months.
“It really hurts a lot because we know what kind of player he is and what he is capable of doing on and off the field and in the clubhouse. Especially for myself, he has always been a great guy and given me good advice.’’
Cano, who turned 30 in October, will be a free agent after the season. He is in the prime of his career and stands as one of the best second basemen in the game. He also has enlisted Scott Boras as his agent.
Already there is talk that Cano will not give the Yankees any discount and will be difficult to sign.
“I’ve never been in that position before,’’ he said. “I hear guys say it isn’t fun when you’re going to be a free agent. But I’ve got another year and I’ve got to go out there and perform and help the team win a championship again.
“You always want to stay with your people. But this is a game and it’s a business. It’s a business and we’ll see what happens.’’