SARASOTA, Florida—There was so much to digest from a day with two enormous Oriole stories.
Within two hours on Thursday, Major League Baseball announced the postponement of at least the first two weeks of the regular season and the cancellation of the rest of spring training, and the Orioles announced that their most valuable player from last season, Trey Mancini, underwent surgery to remove a malignant tumor on his colon.
The news on Mancini was shocking and, even though it was expected, so was the unprecedented move in response to the coronavirus.
Mancini will turn 28 on Tuesday, and his availability for the 2020 season is unknown.
More than two decades ago, there was another Oriole outfielder who underwent surgery for colon cancer. On June 13, 1997, Eric Davis had a cancerous tumor removed from his colon. He resumed playing on September 15.
In 1998, Davis had a team-record 30-game hitting streak.
Mancini, the son of an OB-GYN physician, is not only the Orioles’ best player but its most popular with the fans.
His return is uncertain, and so is the sport’s.
The NBA will be on hiatus for at least 30 days, and it’s likely the NHL will pause for that long, too.
As for baseball, its suspension comes before the season was set to begin, and there are dozens of questions that surround it.
Is it possible that only two weeks of the schedule will be lost? If that’s the case, will the games be made up after the conclusion of the regular season on September 27.
In the season’s first two weeks, the Orioles were scheduled to play 12 games.
In 1995 when the players’ strike that began the previous August finally concluded, teams played 144 games, 18 fewer than normal.
Will the team stay in Sarasota to train? Chris Davis, the team’s player representative, indicated on Thursday that he wanted to continue to work out at the Orioles’ facility. The Orioles are slated to work out at the Ed Smith Stadium complex, at least on Friday. How much longer they’ll remain there isn’t known.
MLB has ended media access for the time being.
Weather in Baltimore could allow the team to work out at Oriole Park when training resumes.
The spring training roster has 54 players, although Mancini, reliever Evan Phillips and outfielder DJ Stewart could begin the season on the injured list.
Surely, the Orioles could make cuts from the roster, which is 15 players fewer than at its peak to make final 26-man roster selection less cumbersome. It wouldn’t be a surprise when games begin, if teams were allowed to carry a few more players, at least for the season’s first weeks.
Once the NBA announced it would halt play after Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert tested positive for coronavirus, it seemed certain that baseball would follow. The NHL, Major League Soccer and the NCAA, which canceled its tournament, quickly moved, and so did baseball.
The sport seemingly had no choice, and for a time, the sports-mad nation will have to find other things to do.
There will be plenty of time to debate the Orioles’ starting rotation, and the composition of their bullpen, infield and outfield, and plenty of time to wish Trey Mancini well and hope that he’s ready to play when the season is ready to commence.