Kevin Long considers Robinson Cano practically a son, they grew so close over the years in the Bronx. And that bond, forged during their countless sessions in the batting cage, allows him to speak frankly about the $240 million man who is now a Seattle Mariner.

That is, while Long couldn’t be prouder of what Cano accomplished as a Yankee, it bothers him that neither he nor anyone else could get through to the second baseman about his notorious lack of hustle, knowing it’s likely to tarnish his standing, especially with the fans.
“If somebody told me I was a dog,’’ Long said here Sunday, “I’d have to fix that. When you choose not to, you leave yourself open to taking heat, and that’s your fault. For whatever reason, Robbie chose not to.’’

Long was talking about Cano’s habit of not running hard to first base on routine ground balls, nothing else. And it was particularly frustrating for him because he helped Cano overcome his other bad habits over the years, centering around his nonchalant nature that once led Joe Girardi to bench him for lazy defense.

“He overcame so much while he was here,’’ Long said. “As a young kid there were holes everywhere. There were holes in his swing, in his makeup, in his body composition. This kid grew and grew and grew.
“All the other stuff … he’d take plays off in the field, he’d give away at-bats in RBI situations. He made a lot of personal decisions to get over the hump in those areas. People don’t know how hard he worked, how many times he was the one asking me to do extra work in the cage.’’

Indeed, rare was the day you came to the ballpark and Cano wasn’t in the cage hours before game time, working at Long’s “net drill,’’ which taught him to pull his hands in on inside pitches and become more of a home-run threat at Yankee Stadium.