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Orioles' Trey Mancini battles mental pressure after cancer battle

Baltimore Orioles infielder Trey Mancini, who battled cancer in 2020, started the season slow, but is hitting .500 over his last three games. File Photo by David Tulis/UPI
Baltimore Orioles infielder Trey Mancini, who battled cancer in 2020, started the season slow, but is hitting .500 over his last three games. File Photo by David Tulis/UPI | License Photo

MIAMI, April 21 (UPI) -- Baltimore Orioles first baseman Trey Mancini announced his cancer diagnosis almost a year ago. He now battles mental pressure, but has inspired fans and teammates in his quest to regain his form at the plate.

The latest example of Mancini's might was a 422-foot home run Tuesday at loanDepot park in Miami. Mancini's solo shot steered the Orioles to a 7-5 victory over the Marlins.

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He has four home runs this season and slowly has regained the confidence he had before the diagnosis.

"The first 14 games this season felt like 140 at times," Mancini told reporters Tuesday in a Zoom video conference.

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"There have been so many ups and downs and different emotions from all spring into the first two weeks of the season. It has been a lot. Obviously, my story has gotten a lot of attention."

Mancini, 29, announced a stage 3 colon cancer diagnosis April 28. He had surgery to remove a malignant tumor March 12. He started chemotherapy April 13 and finished treatment in September.

He had tears in his eyes when he received a standing ovation at his first home game of the season April 8 in Baltimore. He continues to receive standing ovations at road games, including Tuesday in Miami. He calls them some of the "favorite moments" of his baseball career.

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The five-year veteran had just five hits in his first 31 plate appearances, with a .162 average. Mancini admitted he battled early mental pressure to perform based on his past success. He hit a career-high 35 home runs in 2019.

"It's not easy to play in the big leagues," Orioles manager Brandon Hyde told reporters Saturday in a Zoom conference. "He thinks he is going to pick up where he left off.

"We have full confidence he is going to be the player that he is. It might take a little time because he hadn't seen major league pitching in over a year. It's not easy to do."

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Mancini said Hyde and Orioles hitting coach Don Long help ease the pressure. His .500 batting average (5 for 10) over his last three games proves that point.

Long tutors Mancini on his mechanics. Hyde moved him into different slots in the batting order earlier this year, where he didn't need to be as consistent of a hitter.

"He's putting so much pressure on himself," Hyde said. "I want him to relax and have at-bats and not try to carry us in any way. I want him to be himself."

In addition to the mental adjustment, Mancini needed to acclimate to the speed and movement of MLB pitching. He now stays back on off-speed pitches, which he said he "couldn't hit to save my life" earlier this year.

Hyde moved him into the No. 4 spot in the lineup, a position reserved for players capable of driving in the most runs.

"It has been a bit of an adjustment period, but I'm feeling good these last couple of days," Mancini told reporters Tuesday.

Mancini said he no longer feels sore or tired after games, and thinks he can play every day. He routinely uses foam rollers and other soft-tissue treatments to heal muscles more quickly.

"Part of that is being 29, but being what I went through last year, it's a combination [of age and acclimation due to time missed]," Mancini said. "I want to be out here every day and play in every game if I can."

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