Imagine being a baseball player, waking up and gaining 14 1/2 games in the standings and suddenly know you’re headed back to the playoffs for only the second time in your career. Welcome to the last 48 hours for new Astros infielder-outfielder Trey Mancini, who was traded to Houston from Baltimore on Monday.
Mancini went from a plucky Orioles team that was fighting for an American League Wild Card spot to one of baseball’s perennial AL powerhouses in the Astros, who began August with a 12-game lead in the AL West and were steamrolling toward their fifth division title in six years. That’s music to the ears of Mancini, whose playoff career consists of one game.
“I’m so excited to be a part of it,” Mancini said. “I got to experience the Wild Card game in 2016 in Baltimore when we played them in Toronto and that was the best baseball experience I’ve ever had. It’s incredible to be here in this situation and on this team. All the guys in there have been incredible today and I’m so happy to be there.”
Mancini was one of three veteran players the Astros acquired prior to the Trade Deadline, along with catcher Christian Vázquez from the Red Sox and lefty reliever Will Smith from the Braves. Unlike Mancini, Vázquez (2018 with the Red Sox) and Smith (2021 with the Braves) both have World Series rings and extensive playoff experience, something Mancini is now chasing.
“That’s why we play the game. To play baseball and play for a World Series,” Mancini said. “It was exciting this year in Baltimore to see the tide turn. I don’t know if we were looking too far ahead to the playoffs. We were more just concerned about the day, but it was exciting to at least move in the right direction. To come here in this situation, it’s really cool and I’m thrilled to be here.”
Mancini, 30, was drafted in the eighth round by the Orioles in 2013 out of Notre Dame and spent his entire career in Baltimore before being traded on Monday. He’s played in at least 147 games in four of the previous five seasons, with the exception being the 2020 season in which he was battling cancer.
“It’s definitely a little strange when you put on a different jersey, but you’ve still got the orange going on here,” he chuckled. “It feels good. I really like it. You’re in one place for a long time and you get used to it and it’s almost like the first day of school here where you kind of start over a little bit. It’s a cool little adrenaline rush that I haven’t had in a long time.”
So, where will Mancini play?
Astros manager Dusty Baker said he would split time with Yuli Gurriel at first base, get some time at designated hitter and even play more left field, which he didn’t do much of in Baltimore in the big outfield at Camden Yards. Veteran outfielder Michael Brantley is out indefinitely with a shoulder injury, so Mancini will help fill that void.
Minute Maid Park, of course, has one of the smaller left fields in the Major Leagues (315 feet down the left-field line), so that should benefit Mancini offensively, being a right-handed hitter. In January, the Orioles announced that they’d be changing the dimensions at Camden Yards, pushing the left-field wall back by 26 1/2 feet, as well as making it nearly six feet taller.
“I didn’t play left in Baltimore [because] there’s a lot of ground to cover there with the new wall,” Mancini said. “I’d say left field here probably suits me a little bit better on both sides of the ball, especially offensively. But they moved the wall back for a reason there and our pitchers certainly like it a lot. It was a little bit of a tough adjustment at times. So yeah, definitely perfect the wall here.”