Mancini: “Mentally ... a year unlike anything I’ve been through”

The penultimate off-day has arrived on the 2021 schedule. One last collective reset for the Orioles, who are waiting to host the Yankees in a three-game series.

Trey Mancini has played in 132 games and made 561 plate appearances. There were no real expectations. They can’t exist for a cancer survivor who endured six months of chemotherapy treatments and could only hope and pray that he’d survive them and resume his career.

Manager Brandon Hyde is asked about Mancini’s fatigue during those stretches where the first baseman’s bat is lagging and his numbers are drooping. And Hyde is compelled to provide reminders of everything that Mancini has endured.

Hot stretches at the plate are a bonus. The man is healthy and he’s playing baseball again - a lot of it - after missing the entire 2020 season and putting his body through hell.

We wrote extensively about his lost appetite after treatments, favorite foods that girlfriend Sara Perlman no longer could prepare him or even mention, the days he spent in bed or on the couch. His creative attempts to get back into shape one puppy deadlift at a time.

So yeah, an 0-fer week with lots of strikeouts isn’t shocking.

Mancini has reached base in all eight of his starts this month, batting .360/.568/.600 with three doubles, a home run and nine walks. He slashed .224/.248/.306 last month with five doubles, a home run, three walks and 25 strikeouts in 24 games.

Mancini has hit safely in 13 of his last 18 games since Aug. 20, posting a .328 average (22-for-67).

But it isn’t so much the physical toll on Mancini this summer. He can feel it at times, of course, and tweaking his oblique in New York and getting drilled by a pitch under his left arm Saturday in Game 2 had him grimacing, but there are other challenges that might not seem as obvious.

Mancini is in demand. He has a platform to bring awareness to colon cancer and the importance of examinations and early detection. He’s an inspiration. He’s a high-profile spokesman.

And, yes, it’s a grind.

Mancini-Looks-From-Dugout-Gray-Sidebar.jpg“I’d say mentally it’s been a year unlike anything I’ve been through, for sure,” he said. “Like with all the attention. There’s just reminders every day of what I went through and that’s how it’s going to be and that’s great, but it can take a toll sometimes.

“But at the same time, I’ve really learned to deal with it well and I’ve been feeling really good lately. Physically, until this (oblique), I’ve been feeling just like I have every other year in September. Physically, I feel fine.”

The best news possible.

Everyone in the organization stands back and marvels at what Mancini is doing. Surprised? Not really. Just appreciating the moments that otherwise would have been taken for granted.

“It’s astounding,” said major league field coordinator and catching instructor Tim Cossins. “To see Trey doing what he’s doing now and what he had gone through last year and how he handles his business, you can’t say enough about it. And I think over the year, it’s been amazing to watch what people have said, and to see it from such an intimate position in the clubhouse and on the field and working with him and all that stuff, it truly is incredible.

“I don’t know if I could say it any better than anyone else, but it’s truly a special thing and it’s been talked about with how special Trey truly is and to watch him, the little things. Like, I watch him deal with stuff in the clubhouse, deal with streaks, hitting, not hitting, and then you look down after a loss in the middle of that run and he’s not skipping very human moments with people that just doesn’t make sense. You see it. I take down the lineup card and look down there and Trey’s signing an autograph for somebody who’s been here all day.”

The fire still burns intensely inside Mancini, who never uses his heath crisis and recovery as an excuse for a failed at-bat. He’s every bit as hard on himself as during his other seasons. But he also won’t hide from the public.

“I watch him walk back and forth during the game, frustrated, irritated, and regardless of all that, he’s always doing stuff like that when nobody’s looking, when the camera’s not on him,” Cossins said. “It’s just a testament to what kind of person he is and we all know what kind of player he is - special.”

Mancini sat out yesterday’s 22-7 loss, the oblique soreness sending him back to the bench. (The Blue Jays went for the two-point conversion, which felt like running up the score.)

He’s drawn a walk in a career-high seven straight games, the longest active streak in the majors and tied for the seventh-longest this season.

It’s the longest streak since Manny Machado also walked in seven straight in 2017. Brian Roberts is the last Oriole to do it in eight consecutive games in 2009.

The club record is 10 games, done three times - most recently by Ken Singleton in September 1978.

* The Orioles are starting Alexander Wells, John Means and Chris Ellis in the three-game series against the Yankees at Camden Yards. The current five-man rotation, with veteran Matt Harvey on the 60-day injured list, contains four rookies.

Mike Baumann is in the bullpen and made his second appearance yesterday, allowing six runs in three innings to catapult his ERA to 8.10.

Orioles pitchers have allowed four home runs or more in three straight games to tie the franchise record. They surrendered multiple grand slams in a game for third time in team history and the first since Aug. 22, 2002 against the Rangers.

The Orioles allowed at least 22 runs yesterday for the fifth time in club history and the first since Aug. 10, 2019 against the Astros (23). They’ve given up 44 runs over their past three games, the fourth time in club history that they’ve reached or exceeded that total and the first since 2007.

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the Orioles are the third team to allow 10 or more runs in an inning in consecutive games. The Diamondbacks were the most recent on June 15-16, 2005.

Eric Hanhold became the 59th player used this season to break the franchise record of 58 set in 2019. He allowed two runs and three hits in 1 2/3 innings in his first major league game since 2018.

On a positive note, Ryan Mountcastle’s 28th home run tied Cal Ripken Jr.’s club rookie record for a season.

Cedric Mullins is attempting to become the sixth player in major league history 5-foot-8 or shorter to hit 30 home runs in a single season, joining José Altuve (31 in 2019), Jimmy Rollins (30 in 2017), Kirby Puckett (31 in 1986), Yogi Berra (30 in 1956 and 1952), and Hack Wilson (56 in 1930, 39 in 1929, 31 in 1928, 30 in 1927).

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