Mancini: "I wanted to at least be a big part of the tide turning"

Baseball’s trade deadline is pushed back a few days this summer to Aug. 2, maybe providing a little more time for Trey Mancini to field questions about his status on the market, the likelihood that he’s moved, how much he hopes to stay.

Stuff he can recite in his sleep because he’s had so much practice with it.

This is an annual event in Baltimore. The Preakness Stakes feel small by comparison.

The Orioles included a $10 million mutual option in Mancini’s contract with a $250,000 buyout that could keep them together in 2023, but it’s rare that the sides agree. And Mancini made it clear after signing his new deal that his status isn’t really impacted. He just as easily could be traded. Embedding the option isn’t equivalent to planting roots.

Mancini actually could be more enticing to some clubs that may not view him immediately as a summer rental. There’s at least a possibility of keeping him an extra year.

A lack of discussions on a long-term extension certainly increases the chances that he’s moved to another organization.

“I said when (the option) happened, I don’t know how much that changes things,” he said. “There hasn’t really been any talks, but that’s something that I think in the past I would have let maybe get in my head at times. Like, am I going to be here in two months or a month or tomorrow? You never know when it could happen. It isn’t anything that I’ve really thought about too much.

“I have greatly enjoyed these first couple months to the season and this group. I think it’s been really exciting to actually see the tide start to turn here, the team get closer, a lot of guys getting experience and prove that they are going to be here for a while. And I really wanted to be part of that, whether I’m here or not in the future.

“I wanted to at least be a big part of the tide turning. That’s been really important to me, and for that to be the case, I knew that I needed to be the best version of myself possible, and I’ve really tried to make that my MO this year.”

A slow start has given way to a scorching stretch at the plate. Mancini began last night slashing .355/.439/.512 with five doubles, one triple, four home runs, 15 RBIs. 14 walks and 18 runs scored in his last 32 games. He’s now homered three times in the past six games after reaching the Orioles’ bullpen in the first inning, and he flied to deep left in his next at-bat, still unable to conquer the wall but willing to try again.

Mancini totaled eight extra-base hits in his first 44 games but has eight in his last nine since May 29.

It’s about baseball again for Mancini more so than testing his body, his endurance, after undergoing chemotherapy treatments in the summer of 2020. More so than trying to feel right again at the plate and in his own skin.

“I’m certainly really happy with it, and up to this point, very proud even more of the mental changes I made,” he said. “Obviously, I came back pretty quickly last year considering what I went through, and hadn’t really accepted everything that happened to me, and that turned into me trying to use baseball as an outlet to almost like stick it to cancer in a way and act like it didn’t happen, even though it did. That turned into me kind of being a headcase a lot of times, and a lot of days I felt like I wasn’t myself and almost wasn’t here in a way.

“I think I’m more proud of how I’ve gone about staying more even keel and being more concerned with the process than the results, especially early on. I’ve been tested a lot with it this year with a lot of the rough luck, especially maybe in the power department, but at the same time I think I’ve done a good job of just powering through, staying the course and not worrying about any of the things I can’t control. That’s something I always wanted to get better at and was never able to, and this is the first year that I can say that I’ve done a pretty good job of that. And I want and hope to continue doing that. I think if I do, the results should keep going pretty well, and it all kind of blends together, my performance and the way that I treat the process of everything.”

A return home after the season and some vacation time allowed Mancini to clear his head a little more. He talked about it with fiancée Sara Perlman, who has been a tremendous help with her support and advice.  

The 2021 season was a grind for all the reasons that you’d expect, including the physical and mental tolls of fighting back from a colon cancer diagnosis and surgery, the constant interview requests, the 147 games played and extreme highs and lows that resulted in a .255 average and .758 OPS.

“Last year was just a lot,” he said. “It was stressful in a lot of ways, and we just said at the end of the season, ‘I’ve just got to get better with that stuff.’ I’ve treated every game like it’s life or death almost, even after I faced an actual life or death situation, and it shouldn’t be that way. It took a long time this off-season, and something I continue to work on every day, and I’m just proud of the work because it doesn’t just happen overnight. I think I’m more proud of that than anything.”

Mancini had another highly specific blood test about a month ago and the results were positive. His next scans are scheduled in a couple of weeks. The anxiety won’t go away, but it doesn’t have to consume him.

“That’s something I’ve dealt with better, too, as time’s gone on,” he said. “Last year when it was around this time, I think it was a whirlwind for me and I’ve been handling that in stride and much better, too. It’s all definitely related.

“You don’t want to put the cart before the horse, but so far everything’s looked really good health-wise and I’m encouraged by that. Two years ago I was going through chemo, so the tumor was removed two years and three months ago. It’s pretty significant to get to this point, and by all means look healthy. That’s another encouraging thing and something that keeps getting better and better over time, too. That’s something you deal with better just as time goes on.”

The Athletic’s Jim Bowden chose Mancini this week as the Orioles’ representative at the All-Star Game, making him a reserve left fielder over Austin Hays and others. Their site, their rules.

Bowden also considered center fielder Cedric Mullins and reliever Jorge López, but selected Mancini.

“I don’t know if I’d do the (Home Run) Derby,” said Mancini, who was runner-up to the Mets’ Pete Alonso last year. “I’d probably be the last seed right now if they go by home run numbers.”

Mancini would be happy just to be chosen for the game.

“I think especially after 2019, it’s something that I have really wanted,” he said, “but at the same time we’ve got a lot of guys making a great case to be there. And I really hope this is the first year since ’16 that we have multiple guys go. That’s certainly a possibility. It doesn’t have to be one guy, there doesn’t have to be specifically one Orioles representative. In an ideal world we’d have more than one guy. But yeah, it would be absolutely incredible, but there’s still a while to go. And like I’ve said, something I’m trying to get better at is not looking too far in the future at things.

“You just don’t know what tomorrow even holds. Just trying to enjoy today and put my best foot forward.”

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