Hays on Mancini’s comeback and new hitting coaches

In those sporadic moments when I envision Trey Mancini helping to prepare Thanksgiving dinner, which I’m only assuming is an actual thing, I imagine him reaching inside the turkey for the giblets and pulling out another Comeback Player of the Year Award.

There’s always room for fourths.

The Sporting News, Major League Baseball Players Association and beat writers at MLB.com chose Mancini in separate balloting, and it couldn’t have been close.

It shouldn’t have been close.

“I know he had my vote, so I’m glad everyone else felt the same way and gave him that honor because he was very deserving of it,” said Orioles outfielder Austin Hays.

“I can’t think of anybody else who deserved it more.”

Missing an entire season while undergoing chemotherapy treatments for Stage 3 colon cancer, returning to play in 147 games, slashing .255/.326/.432 with 33 doubles, 21 home runs 71 RBIs and 77 runs scored, and being runner-up in the All-Star Home Run Derby pretty much guarantees the honor.

Then again, I could have stopped after mentioning the 147 games.

Camden Yards daytime.jpg“I got to talk to him a lot this year just about when he was going through his rough stretches and he was just kind of getting back into it later in the year, he was starting to feel the effects of missing an entire year of baseball, and going through all the chemo and the cancer, I know he was getting really tired and his body was starting to break down,” Hays said. “But when he would really kind of sit and reflect on what he went through the year before, even though his body was breaking down and he had that little stint toward the end of the year where he was on the field and off the field, we talked and it’s like, ‘Man, you still played 140-plus games this year after just beating cancer.’

“I don’t know how many people could actually do that and would be willing to do that, to play every single day for the first four months of the season. He was playing every day. That alone, even without the stats that he put up ... he still had a good year, but even if he didn’t have as good of a statistical year as what he did, I think he still would have been deserving of it, because he played every single day after beating cancer.”

The slumps and periods when his strikeouts increased had some people asking what was wrong with Mancini. They’d be reminded that, well, he had Stage 3 colon cancer last year. So, you know, there might be some dips in his production.

“He came back, had a full spring training camp and he was leading the big leagues in, like, three categories almost right up until the All-Star break,” Hays said. “He did the Home Run Derby, he didn’t really get a big rest and I think he just got tired, which is completely understandable. He just beat Stage 3 cancer. You don’t really know how somebody’s body is going to react or what they’re going to be able to do. But for him to come out and play over 140 games is just amazing.”

Hays and Mancini will be working with new hitting coaches next year, assuming that the latter isn’t traded as he enters his final year of arbitration eligibility.

The Orioles replaced Don Long with Ryan Fuller, the hitting coach at Double-A Bowie and organization’s full-season hitting coordinator, and Matt Borgschulte, most recently the hitting coach with the Triple-A St. Paul Saints.

“I got to be around Ryan a little bit with the broken-rib injury that I had (in 2020), when I was rehabbing that, and then this year I was around him a little bit, as well, when I was dealing with the hamstring stuff and rehabbing that,” Hays said. “He’s got a ton of knowledge and he understands the game and understands how to make players better and pick out what areas they’re struggling with and help them grow and become a more mature and adapted hitter.

“I’ve spoken to Matt but I haven’t been around him in person, so I’m looking forward to being around those guys in spring training and start building some relationships.”

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