Comeback award may be Mancini's already

April 4th, 2021

One weekend into the regular season, award voting remains more than six months away. But one Oriole is already whipping up votes for some end-of-the-year hardware from opponents and allies alike: .

“He should be the Comeback Player of the Year,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora said Sunday prior to the season-opening series finale between Baltimore and Boston at Fenway Park. “He can hit .330 or .180 and he’s the Comeback Player of the Year already. I know there are other guys coming back from injuries, but to come back from [colon cancer] is amazing.”

Said Orioles manager Brandon Hyde: “He would definitely have my vote, no doubt about that.”

Mancini made his return to the field in Friday’s season opener after missing the 2020 season due to Stage 3 colon cancer. Mancini beat the disease, completing six months of chemotherapy and returning to full baseball activity this spring without restriction. He has become a spokesperson for colorectal cancer awareness because of his story, which continues to inspire people inside and outside of baseball.

“He did an outstanding job in Spring Training getting ready,” Cora said. “You can see the swings. He looks like he's the same guy as two years ago, and I'm very happy that he's back. I'm very happy for the Orioles organization to have their leader back, and I think everybody in this clubhouse appreciates that he's playing again.”

Several Red Sox showed that sentiment in Friday’s opener, with Xander Bogaerts, Christian Vázquez and Rafael Devers outwardly congratulating Mancini on the field. Mancini was appreciative of those tributes after the game, calling them “really classy and really meant a lot to me.” At the plate, Mancini went 1-for-6 with a walk in his first two regular-season games back.

“He’s handled it as well as he can possibly handle it and then some,” Hyde said. “He’s had so much attention on him this spring and season so far, and he’s handled it like a pro and so mature. He’s just so professional and so understanding and appreciative, and he walks around like that. He’s just appreciative of being here. He gives his time to others. He’s just a class act.”

Mancini is expected to receive a hero’s welcome when the Orioles return to Baltimore for their home opener Thursday. It will be his first game at Oriole Park at Camden Yards since Sept. 21, 2019. The Red Sox will be on hand for that milestone as well.

“That should be a special day, not only for the Orioles organization but for him personally,” Cora said. “To be there is going to be an honor for us, and I know it's going to be a special day.”