Trey Mancini is savoring every minute of spring training.
The Orioles slugger is back on the field after missing all of last season with colon cancer. Mancini is ready to shake off any rust from the layoff and feels like his old self, when he was one of the team’s most productive players.
“I made sure to enjoy it and cherish today because there were times, especially when I got diagnosed early on, where I wasn’t totally sure if I’d be playing baseball again,” Mancini said in a Zoom call with the Baltimore media Feb. 22, the first full-squad workout. “Just being able to come out here and feel like myself and feel great and participate in everything fully is something that I’m very appreciative of and I don’t take for granted at all.”
Mancini, who turns 29 next month, had a cancerous tumor removed from his colon last spring. He’s been an inspiration to his teammates who embraced a rallying cry to support him last season: #F16HT.
Mancini underwent chemotherapy from April until September. While Orioles players voiced their support for Mancini during the past year, he was equally excited to be back in the clubhouse after being away for so long.
“It’s been so great because some of the guys I haven’t seen since I told them last spring training what was going on,” Mancini said. “It was really good to come full circle and get back down here to Sarasota and see everybody in the place that [when] I left it, it was really tough and a really hard time. It’s been great to see the guys again and be back in the locker room.”
Mancini last played in 2019 when he was the Orioles’ MVP, leading the team in doubles (38), home runs (35), RBIs (97), extra-base hits (75), total bases (322), OBP (.364), slugging (.535) and OPS (.899). Mancini is confident he’ll regain that stroke.
“I just wanted to continue what I did,” he said. “I know that’s a long time ago at this point, but just that minor adjustment of setting my sights a little higher. I remember that and that’s still my approach at the plate and it hasn’t changed at all.”
Mancini will spend most of his time at first base in place of the struggling Chris Davis and help create at-bats for Ryan Mountcastle, who will start in left field.
Felix Hernandez Eyes Baseball Immortality
Felix Hernandez is not only looking to boost the Orioles’ starting rotation, he also wants to make a stronger argument for the Hall of Fame.
The veteran right-hander signed a minor-league deal earlier this month, and the hope is he can stay healthy and extend his stellar career.
That’s a key goal for Hernandez, who is confident he’s accumulating the stats for Cooperstown.
“I think I have a shot to go in the Hall of Fame, but I have a few numbers that I have to keep up, like wins and strikeouts, so if I get to those goals, I think I’m going to be in the Hall of Fame,” Hernandez said. “I have the numbers because I’ve got the innings, I’ve got the strikeouts, but my goal is to get to 3,000 [strikeouts] and 200 wins.”
Over 15 major-league seasons, Hernandez, 35 in April, has gone 169-136 with a 3.42 ERA and 2,524 strikeouts. He is a six-time All-Star and won the Cy Young Award in 2010 when he went 13–12 with a 2.27 ERA and 232 strikeouts in a league-high 249.2 innings.
Hernandez has battled injuries throughout the past few years and opted out of the 2020 season because of COVID-19. However, Hernandez is confident he can battle back from those setbacks and become a productive pitcher for the Orioles, who need support in the back end of the rotation.
“The couple [of seasons] in Seattle is because I wasn’t healthy,” Hernandez said. “I was going through a lot of injuries and I wasn’t having fun. Last year, I sat out because of all the things going on in the world. But right now I feel really, really good and I’m ready to go.”
Matt Harvey Has New Outlook With Orioles
Matt Harvey is another pitcher looking to resurrect his career with the Orioles.
The right-hander made his major-league debut to much fanfare with the Mets in 2012. Harvey went 25-18 and did not have an ERA above 2.73 in any of his first three seasons, when pitching admittedly came easy to him. Harvey started the 2013 All-Star Game and his career appeared to be on an upward trajectory.
“I think the first couple years I threw so well that it just came easy, came natural,” he said.
However, his struggles began in 2016 when he went 4-10 with a 4.86 ERA. Harvey never seemed to recover from those struggles and he bounced around the majors in stints with the Cincinnati Reds, Los Angeles Angels and Kansas City Royals.
Maybe he even took his talent for granted.
Harvey, who turns 32 next month, is trying to regain some of the success in the earlier part of the career with the Orioles. Instead of just relying on his talent, Harvey is working closely with his coaches and using the club’s analytical approach to become a more consistent pitcher.
“I’m just extremely happy to be here,” Harvey said. “I told the guys here, ‘Whatever you think mechanically could help me, whatever you believe needs to be done in order to get me back, I know it’s in there.’ It’s been frustrating, because I know it’s there. I haven’t had that click moment where I feel like, all right, there it was. That’s the old me, that’s who I think I can be. Hopefully we can find that as soon as we possibly can.”
Harvey is not guaranteed a roster spot, but there is an opportunity within the Orioles’ young pitching staff. Manager Brandon Hyde is going to give him every opportunity to show he can be an impact pitcher once again, and he is not going to judge Harvey on his recent past.
“What’s happened to him the last couple years, I don’t know, and I will dive into that with him once I get to know him,” Hyde said. “But I’m just looking forward to watching him. I know he’s appreciative of the opportunity. He seems like a great guy and hoping for the best.”
It’s All About The Hair
Two young pitchers are becoming social media icons because of their haircuts … or lack of thereof.
Both starter Dean Kremer and Hunter Harvey are easy to spot on the spring training practice field because of their unique hairstyles.
Harvey sports the classic mullet, which fits well with his hard-throwing role out of the bullpen.
Kremer has a California, surfer look, which mirrors his calm persona on the mound.
“I’ve kind of had long hair with most of my post-high school life. It hasn’t been this long on a consistent basis,” Kremer said. “I’m from California. I kind of got to look the part, flip flops and long hair and a necklace.”
Kremer made four starts as a rookie last season and went 1-1 with a 4.82 ERA and a 1.47 WHIP. He’s expected to battle for a starting spot in the middle of the rotation.
“I think Dean just has a really good feel to pitch,” Hyde said. “And he understands himself very well. But he’s got a good feel to spin the baseball, whether it’s the breaking ball or the changeup. I think he’s got a really good feel for his delivery.”
Harvey will compete for the job as closer, and the key for him is to stay healthy after battling injuries for much of his career. Harvey made his big-league debut August 2019, appearing in seven games (6.1 innings). He allowed just one run and three hits with 11 strikeouts and one walk. Harvey had a 1.42 ERA and 1.11 WHIP.
Last year, he was limited to 8.2 innings because of muscular tightness in his right elbow and the challenges with the shortened season. He still managed six strikeouts and a 1.15 WHIP.
“Someone like Hunter, I just want him to be healthy,” Hyde said. “If that means he does no back-to-backs in spring training and I wait until the season or we don’t do it during the season with him, I don’t know yet. But he’s going to be somebody we monitor closely. It’s going to be all individual in how we really ramp these bullpen guys up.”
Photo Credit: Kenya Allen/PressBox