Mancini: 'It's tough' missing Opening Day

July 24th, 2020

Sitting home in his Washington, D.C., apartment this week, watched Major League Baseball return to action with restless anticipation. Sometimes, the urge to get up and swing a bat came over him. Other times, he’d want to throw a ball around, simply for old times' sake. Mancini, 28, estimates this is the first Opening Day he won’t be participating in since he was 3 years old.

“It's kinda like being a kid again, watching the games on TV,” Mancini said. “It gives you the itch to go out there and play or even go to a cage and start swinging.”

Those are activities Mancini, of course, currently cannot do. But he’s getting closer. More than four months after being diagnosed with Stage III colon cancer, the Orioles slugger said he is more than halfway through his prescribed chemotherapy regimen, having completed seven of 12 treatments. His final one is scheduled for Sept. 21, at which point Mancini hopes he can set his sights fully on returning to the field in 2021.

For Mancini, it can’t come soon enough.

“I’ve started to get to the point where I can see the light at the end of the tunnel a little bit,” Mancini said. “ I’ve definitely been thinking more about being done with my chemo regime, starting an offseason and getting ready for next year. I definitely have that inspiration right now for sure. Not that I didn’t before, but it’s heightened now with baseball coming back and me getting to the end.”

In the meantime, Mancini plans keep tabs from afar on his teammates, who have resolved to pay tribute to him throughout this shortened 60-game season. He’s also gotten into Premier League soccer during this layoff, becoming an avid fan of the Aston Villa F.C. (“I even bought a shirt!” Mancini said). But he remains focused on his recovery above all else, advocating publicly Thursday for mask-wearing to help protect non-obvious at-risk candidates for COVID-19 like him.

“I’ve realized what’s important in life during all this,” Mancini said. “Before this, all the struggles I gone through really had to do with baseball. I never faced a real-life crisis like this.”

Consider baseball, then, a welcome distraction, like it is for many. For the Orioles, it comes without their best player and emerging clubhouse leader, turning what was already a potentially trying season even more challenging. The hope for both the player and club is that changes soon.

“I am really excited to watch the guys tonight,” Mancini said. “It’s tough not being there. I wish more than anything I can be out there with them. But I’ve definitely got bigger things to worry about right now. ”

Taxi time
The Orioles carried a full taxi squad to their first series in Boston: catcher , righty and utilityman . All must be added to the 40-man roster if they are activated.

Means update
Manager Brandon Hyde said Thursday the club hopes can return from the injured list when eligible on July 30 to start against the Marlins at home. The O’s scheduled Opening Day starter, Means missed the assignment due to what the club has described as arm fatigue. His IL stint is backdated to July 20.

Baumler signs
The Orioles on Friday signed fifth-round pick Carter Baumler. The Iowa prep righty for $1.5 million, according to MLB Pipeline’s Jim Callis. The agreement, which is more than $1 million over slot value, had been in place since early June. Baumler is the final 2020 draftee to sign with his club.

Roster move
The Orioles on Thursday outrighted right-hander to Triple-A Norfolk, removing him from their 60-man player pool after he cleared waivers. They now have 55 players in their pool, and 39 on their 40-man roster.

Velázquez, 31, was claimed off waivers from the Red Sox in March. He went 11-7 with a 3.90 ERA in 89 games as a swingman for Boston from 2017-19.

Number change
Eight players and three coaches are making their first Opening Day appearance for the Orioles. Here are the numbers they’ll wear in 2020:

13: Andrew Velazquez (changed from 88)
11: José Iglesias
23: Wade LeBlanc
53: Kohl Stewart
54: Cole Sulser
69: Tommy Milone
74: Pat Valaika
70: Travis Lakins Sr.
9: First base coach Anthony Sanders (changed from 23)
32: Coach Fredi González
40: Bullpen coach Darren Holmes