Trey Mancini headlines list of players returning after missing 2020

Gerry Angus-USA TODAY Sports
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Trey Mancini had surgery for colon cancer last year on the same day Major League Baseball shut down spring training due to COVID-19.

Baseball returned later in 2020 and Mancini is back now, healthy and ready to go.

His comeback story has been a highlight of spring training. Mancini is not only the best player on the Baltimore Orioles, he’s the most popular.

“There were times, especially when I was diagnosed early on where I wasn’t totally sure if I was ever going to play baseball again,” Mancini recalled upon his return. “Just being able to feel like myself, feel great and participate in everything fully is something I’m very appreciate of and I don’t take for granted at all.”

Mancini, who turns 29 next week, had a breakout season in 2019, batting .291 with 35 homers and 97 RBIs. He singled in his first at-bat in nearly a year and got a standing ovation from a socially distanced crowd at the ballpark.

“I can’t remember a bigger hug that I gave anybody than seeing him for the first time,” Orioles infielder Rio Ruiz said.

Many players are returning from injuries that forced them to miss last season or cut their season short. Nearly 20 guys are back after opting not to play because of coronavirus concerns, including former All-Stars David Price, Buster Posey, Lorenzo Cain, Marcus Stroman and Ryan Zimmerman.

Here are five more players looking to rebound in 2021:

Stephen Strasburg

The 2019 World Series MVP pitched five innings last season before carpal tunnel surgery. He struck out four of the six batters he faced in his spring training debut this week, and the 32-year-old righty is expected to make four more appearances for Washington before the season.

Strasburg has made than 10 trips to the disabled and injured lists throughout his career.

“This isn’t my first rodeo when it comes to injuries and stuff,” Strasburg said after his outing. “So I’m kind of at a point where I’m going to go out there and give it everything I have and roll with the punches.”

Corey Kluber

The two-time AL Cy Young Award winner has thrown only 36 2/3 innings over the past two seasons, one since May 2019 when he was hit on the right forearm by a comebacker. Kluber tore a muscle in his right shoulder in his Texas debut last July 26 and agreed to an $11 million, one-year deal with the New York Yankees in January.

The Yankees are hoping the 34-year-old righty can regain the form that made him one of baseball’s best pitchers in Cleveland from 2013-18.

“Physically, I feel like I’m in a good spot,” Kluber said after his first spring training start. “I’m just trying to prepare for the season the best I can.”

Yordan Alvarez

The 2019 AL Rookie of the Year played just two games for Houston last season before having surgery on both knees. The Astros are easing Alvarez back this spring training, and he hasn’t appeared in a game yet.

He hit .313 with 27 homers and 78 RBIs in only 313 at-bats in 2019, helping Houston win the AL pennant. The Astros reached Game 7 of the AL Championship Series without him last year and getting Alvarez’s bat back at designated hitter should help make up for the departure of George Springer in free agency.

Mitch Haniger

A 2018 All-Star outfielder with Seattle, Haniger hasn’t played since June 2019 due to multiple injuries and surgeries. He’s swinging the ball well this spring and is a welcome addition to the Mariners’ lineup.

Haniger hit .285 with 26 homers and 93 RBIs in 2018. He slumped to .220 with 15 homers and 32 RBIs in 63 games in 2019 before injuries derailed him.

Chris Archer

A two-time All-Star with Tampa Bay, Archer is back with the Rays after 2 1/2 disappointing seasons in Pittsburgh. The righty missed last season due to surgery for thoracic outlet syndrome and was 6-12 with a 4.92 ERA in 33 starts with the Pirates. He signed a $6.5 million, one-year deal, returning to the AL champion Rays.

The Rays are taking it slowly with Archer, and he hasn’t yet pitched in a spring training game.

Yankees’ Judge heads on road still at 61 homers; 4 games left

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NEW YORK – Aaron Judge won’t break the American League home run record at Yankee Stadium, remaining at 61 as New York headed on the road for its final four regular-season games after a 3-1 loss to the Baltimore Orioles on Sunday.

Judge struck out three times and walked once, disappointing a crowd of 44,332 that watched the Yankees regular-season home finale in rain for much of a chilly, blustery afternoon. New York finishes the regular season with four games at Texas, starting Monday night.

Judge took a called third strike from rookie Kyle Bradish leading off the first inning, then couldn’t check his swing and stranded the bases loaded when he struck out on a curveball in the second. He walked in the fifth and fanned against Bryan Baker in the seventh, dropping to 1 for 7 with six strikeouts, five walks and a hit batter since hitting No. 61 at Toronto on Wednesday night.

Trying to become the first Triple Crown winner since Detroit’s Miguel Cabrera in 2012, Judge tops the AL with 130 RBIs. His batting average fell to .311, four points behind league leader Luis Arraez of Minnesota.

Baltimore (82-77) guaranteed its first winning season since 2016. The Orioles went 52-110 last year and became the first team since at least 1900 to have a winning record one season after losing 110 or more.

AL East champion New York (97-61) took another hit to an injury-ravaged bullpen when Ron Marinaccio left while pitching to Jorge Mateo in the eighth. The Yankees will be without Clay Holmes until the playoffs because of rotator cuff inflammation, and Aroldis Chapman (3-4) was once again wild, walking three, including rookie Gunnar Henderson with the bases loaded, as Baltimore surged ahead in the seventh.

Chi Chi Gonzalez, a 30-year-old right-hander, made his Yankees debut after pitching for Minnesota and Milwaukee in the majors earlier this season. He threw to Jose Trevino, his batterymate at Oral Roberts in 2012 and ’13.

Gonzalez allowed one run, four hits and three walks in 4 2/3 innings.

Bradish gave up one run – unearned – three hits and five walks in five-plus innings.

Logan Gillaspie (1-0) pitched a scoreless sixth in his first big league decision, Baker struck out five while getting six straight outs, and Dillon Tate got three outs for his fifth save.

Ryan Mountcastle had an RBI double in the first. Aaron Hicks scored from second base in the fifth when Bradish bounced a wild pitch and catcher Adley Rutschman threw the ball into center for an error.

Cedric Mullins reached on an infield hit starting the seventh against Chapman, has walked 28 in 35 1/3 innings. After Chapman walked three of four batters, Austin Hays followed with a sacrifice fly off Marinaccio.

WEB GEMS

Yankees 3B Josh Donaldson made a backhand grab on Jorge Mateo’s bases-loaded grounder in the sixth and from foul territory made a strong throw for the inning-ending out. … Hicks saved two runs with a sprinting catch on Terrin Vavra‘s slicing liner near the left-field line in the seventh.

FOR THE BOOKS

New York went 57-24 at home, matching most wins at new Yankee Stadium. Baltimore was 38-43 on the road, up from 20-61.

IN THE SEATS

The Yankees drew 3,136,207 for 78 home dates, down from 3,304,404 in 2019, the last season before two years of COVID restrictions. They had 16 sellouts, up from 12 in 2019.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Orioles: RHP Felix Bautista may not pitch for the rest of the season because of the sore left knee he injured Friday.

Yankees: Matt Carpenter (broken left foot on Aug 8) will not work out initially in the outfield at the Somerset, New Jersey, training camp this week. He was moved to the 60-day IL on Sunday, ruling him out of the Texas series. … RHP Miguel Castro (strained shoulder) could be activated Monday. … LHP Wandy Peralta, sidelined since Sept. 18 with back tightness, threw a bullpen session and will face hitters at Somerset on Tuesday or Wednesday.

UP NEXT

Orioles: RHP Dean Kremer (6-8, 3.17) starts Monday’s opener of a season-ending series against visiting Toronto and Jose Berrios (11-7, 5.37)

Yankees: RHP Luis Severino (6-3, 3.41) starts Monday in the opener of a four-game series at Texas and LHP Martin Perez (12-7, 2.93). After Wednesday, the Yankees have five off days before their Division Series opener at home on Oct. 11.