The feel-good story that keeps developing with Trey Mancini - his recovery from Stage 3 colon cancer and resumption of a life that’s more recognizable to him - has room for a few baseball-related chapters.
Sports haven’t been the main focus for obvious reasons. Playing for the Orioles again was secondary.
Now it seems more imminent. More acceptable to discuss without coming across as insensitive or having priorities out of order.
There’s a business side to Mancini’s return, including his status as one of the team’s arbitration-eligible players. And including how the organization makes roster decisions while unable to know for sure that he’ll be ready on opening day.
Let’s just say that’s the assumption on both sides. There’s nothing else to go on at the moment.
The oncologist can’t hand over a written guarantee. Promises won’t be made. But Mancini feels healthy and strong. He’s working out and integrating baseball activities, including rounds of batting practice inside a cage that he captured on video last week for his Instagram account.
My curiosity revolved around offseason planning by the Orioles. Does Mancini’s uncertain status influence how the front office views the free agent and trade markets?
I figured that the club was set with corner outfielders and first basemen, which enabled executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias to pen a shopping list without wondering about Mancini. And that’s how it seems to be working out.
The Orioles are interested in signing at least one starting pitcher and a veteran reliever. They always swap out infielders, at times bringing back guys who were designated for assignment and claimed off waivers. A catcher for depth purposes could be obtained with Bryan Holaday entering free agency. But finding more outfield/first base types isn’t a priority.
Exclude Mancini from the roster and, as one person in the organization stated, the Orioles would “probably just have more (Ryan) Mountcastle and (Chris) Davis at first base.” Anthony Santander could lock down right field again, with all the various combinations completing the outfield alignment.
(Don’t forget about DJ Stewart, who remains on the 40-man roster.)
Mancini hasn’t appeared in a game since spring training. Facing live pitching ranked among the least of his interests over the summer.
Can he return to the player who was voted Most Valuable Oriole in 2019? Can he be a run producer again in the middle of the order?
Still no guarantees.
“I think that medically he’s going to be fine,” Elias said. “I don’t have any reason to think he’s going to have a bad season, but who knows after anyone misses a season and goes through what he went through? But he’s always been one to overcome adversity, so we’re all hopeful that he’s going to have a real good year.”