When Trey Mancini reports to the Orioles’ spring training site in Sarasota, Florida on February 21st, he’s going to feel differently than he did last spring.
It was during spring training in 2020 that Mancini realized he didn’t feel right. It turned out that he needed surgery for colon cancer, which he had on March 12th, the day the baseball season was put on hold because of Covid-19. Mancini missed the 60-game season.
“My perspective has changed a whole lot, especially baseball-wise,” Mancini said during a video conference call on Wednesday.
“My ultimate goal has always been to come back and be back to myself on the baseball field, but that really played second fiddle to wanting to be healthy.
“I always appreciated being healthy, but never like I have this year, and having your health and feeling good is so important in life. I don’t want to say I took it for granted before, but I definitely have a newfound appreciation for it.”
Mancini, who is spending the offseason in Nashville, completed chemotherapy on September 21st.
“Every three months, I go and get checked … I have appointments with my oncologist. We’re going to stay on top of it. From here on out, that’s my new normal. I’m also excited to get back to normal life, before all this happened …”
Mancini knows he’s more at risk because of the pandemic.
“Having had cancer puts you in that category for sure,” he said. Mancini mentioned that the Indians’ Carlos Carrasco and the Cubs’ Jon Lester and Anthony Rizzo played in 2020 with cancer.
“Even if you’re recovered from your cancer, you still want to be careful and I think probably around now, I feel like my blood cell counts have gone up so I’m not more susceptible to contracting it. Hopefully, that’s all built back up, but that is something you want to be careful with because you don’t know for sure how you’re going to react to it.”
Mancini typically doesn’t begin hitting until early December.
“I work out five times a week,” Mancini said. “And I’m hitting those times, too. Right now, I’m still just doing tee work. It’s something you slowly want to progress into because I had a pretty good amount of time off, so you really want to ease into it, retrain your muscles.
“I have an inkling to sometimes go in there and take swings at 100 percent right at the beginning. You have to remember you’re not totally conditioned for that, but I’ve already built up and I’ll be doing some short overhand tossing pretty soon. By the time December rolls around in a few weeks, I’ll probably be ahead of where I am in the offseason.”
Mancini thought that the time between surgery and the end of his chemotherapy treatments would be difficult.
“Honestly, it flew by,” he said. I thought it was going to be the longest six months imaginable.” Mancini credits the care of girlfriend Sara Perlman.
“Luckily, I have the greatest support system in the world. Sara took care of me literally every day and made my life so much easier. I’m forever grateful to her for that. It was really tough, but I was surrounded by some great people who made it better.”
Mancini’s follow-up work has been positive.
“The biggest worry is, obviously, a recurrence,” he said. “You pray that never happens. I feel really good about things. I had a lot of pretty extensive blood work and scans, and everything looks great. There was no trace of tumor DNA or cancer in my blood stream, which is great, but it’s still something you have to monitor.
“At the same time, it’s something pretty largely out of my control. I’m doing everything I can physically to be ready to play and still have a long career, and I’m feeling really good about that.”
Mancini was worried about chemotherapy’s side effects.
“There’s no reason for me to believe that if spring training started tomorrow, I wouldn’t be ready to go,” Mancini said. “Because I really would. I’ve recovered well, and I’ve been really working hard since I finished chemo, just building myself back up. At this point, I feel really strong and capable of playing major league baseball. I’ll be ready for spring training. I really know that.
“Obviously, it’s a goal, and it’s something I want to continue to work towards, being ready for Opening Day. Fingers crossed because it would be something out of my control that would cause me to not be out there. From a physical standpoint, I’m good to go.
“When I get there in February, I really think everybody will look at me and think that nothing happened if they didn’t know what happened.”
Notes: Brian Gonzalez, who was the Orioles’ third-round pick in the 2014 draft, signed a minor league contract with an invitation to major league spring training with Colorado. Gonzalez, a left-handed pitcher, was the team’s first selection in 2014 since their first two picks that year were used for signing Ubaldo Jimenez and Nelson Cruz. He was at the alternate site in Bowie this past summer … Cleveland’s Shane Bieber was the unanimous winner of the American League Cy Young Award. Minnesota’s Kenta Maeda was second followed by Toronto’s Hyun-Jin Ryu, New York’s Gerrit Cole and Chicago’s Dallas Keuchel. I voted for Bieber, Keuchel, Oakland’s Chris Bassit, Maeda and Cole. Bieber was an easy choice, but voting for the others was difficult because of the shortened season.