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Tampa's Cano cools but still wins kudos

Robinson Cano's first month of the season was one to treasure.

The Tampa second baseman went 5-for-5 on opening day to begin a torrid stretch. He hit safely in 18 of his first 19 games and was the league's top hitter with a .500 average (20-for-40).

Cano got noticed. Baseball America mentioned him as one of the top prospects in minor-league baseball, and he received raves from those in the organization.

But after finding his groove in April, Cano couldn't keep it going. His average has plunged to .293 and he no longer is among the league's top 10 hitters.

Nevertheless, the accolades keep rolling in.

Cano was one of five Tampa players who represented the Western Division in the Florida State League All-Star Game two weeks ago. Last week he was selected to play on the World Team at the All-Star Futures Game.

This week Sportsticker mentioned him as one of the top second baseman in minor-league baseball. Dunedin's Russ Adams, who was promoted to Double-A New Haven, also was on the list.

CLEARWATER TO HONOR VETERANS: As part of their Fourth of July festivities, the Phillies are inviting veterans to attend today's game at Jack Russell Stadium. The gates open at 3 p.m. and the game starts at 4. The team also is collecting baseballs and gloves, which will be donated to Iraqi children.

HOT STREAKS: It took a few weeks, but Dunedin and Tampa are climbing out of the Western Division cellar.

The Blue Jays, who started 1-6, have won four straight. The Yankees have won three of four after starting 1-5.

A slew of promotions was the biggest contributor to their slow starts. Dunedin had two starting pitchers, its starting shortstop and its closer move up to New Haven. Tampa lost four of its five All-Star selections to Double-A Trenton.

ATHLETE UPDATE: Brandon Claussen, who spent the first part of the season in Tampa, continued his meteoric rise a year after having Tommy John surgery.

The left-hander won his major-league debut June 29 against the Mets. He allowed two runs, one earned, and pitched into the seventh as the Yankees completed the first Subway Series sweep by either team since interleague play began in 1997.

Claussen allowed eight hits, struck out five and walked one in 6 innings. He also drove in a run with his first career hit.

Picked in the 34th round of the 1998 amateur draft, Claussen advanced to Triple-A Columbus last season and went 2-8 before a ligament in his left elbow frayed. After rehabilitation he started the season at Tampa, where his pitch count was carefully monitored. He pitched 22 innings and went 2-0 with a 1.64 ERA there.

_ BOB PUTNAM, TIMES WIRES

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