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:
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.”
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.”
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.
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.
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.