Entering Wednesday's matchup against New York, the utiliy man had batted .486 with seven RBIs in nine games against the Yankees. Ironically, Ciriaco's success against the team is attributed to none other than a Yankee — Robinson Cano.
Two weeks before heading to Fort Myers for spring training, Ciriaco received an invitation to train with Cano, the Yankees' second baseman, among others. It was a crash course that focused primarily on hitting.
"We worked a lot on hitting technique — our hand placement, staying behind on the ball with your body and really focusing on your hands," Ciriaco told NESN.com in Spanish. "If you watch [Cano], that's what makes him so good — his ability to use his hands. I learned a lot from him."
Their friendship spans nearly a decade. When Ciriaco was 15 years old, he was introduced to Cano during Cano's father's summer baseball camp in Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic.
At the time, they were casual acquaintances. But as the years went on, Cano and Ciriaco would run into one another at winter league games — as well as other functions — and continued their companionship.
It culminated with Cano offering the 26-year-old an invite to prepare for the 2012 season. After their two-week workout in February, Ciriaco traveled to Red Sox camp and quickly turned heads, hitting .419.
Seven months later, Ciriaco is enjoying the best season of his professional career, batting .306 with two homers and 17 RBIs through 56 games with the Red Sox. But Ciriaco credits his newfound success to training with Cano.
"I think so," Ciriaco said, when asked if the workouts resulted in his career year. "Because in the little time I spent with him, I learned so much. To watch someone of his caliber hitting on a daily basis, that helps out with the learning process."
Ciriaco's hitting exploits were on display on Tuesday night. In the bottom of the ninth of the 4-3 victory, Ciriaco singled to trigger Boston's rally before scoring the winning run on a Jacoby Ellsbury single.
"He was struggling I heard coming in, too," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said, referencing Ciriaco's recent 6-for-47 slide. "[But he] hits a ball at his shoetops for a base hit to lead off the ninth. I mean, he just finds a way against us."
While he failed to make the team coming out of spring training, Ciriaco maintained his momentum in Triple-A, hitting .301 with four home runs and 21 RBIs. Those solid numbers earned him an International League All-Star selection.
Ciriaco, however, never made his scheduled All-Star appearance. The Red Sox elected to promote him on July 7 — before a double-header against the Yankees — and the 26-year-old started torching the Yanks immediately.
And it all goes back to his daily sessions with Cano.
"He inspired me because we all know his accomplishments," Ciriaco said. "He helped me a great deal because when you've had success in this game [like Cano] and you have a chance to learn from him, you really want to pay attention to every detail."
Now, he's torturing Cano and the Yankees.
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