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Mancini, Harvey Bring Hope For Birds In '21

 A street sign for Camden Street with a sign reading "Welcome to Oriole Park at Camden Yards" in the background on a brick building.
Alan Levine via Flickr (Public Domain CC0 1.0)
Oriole Park at Camden Yards

Looking for beacons of hope with the Orioles? Trey Mancini and Matt Harvey are just the guys to watch.

While you can make too much of the annual happenstance of the onset of spring and the beginning of baseball, there is something to be said about the confluence of the two arriving as they do.

There’s the sense of rebirth with the arrival of the vernal equinox and a feeling of hope inspired by the sound of bat hitting ball.

And goodness knows we could use a rebirth and some hope after the year we’ve had around here.

The Orioles’ opening weekend performance in Boston may be a hopeful harbinger, but we’ll have to be on guard against disappointment.

Tucked within that series win against the Red Sox were a couple of potential markers of promise that might, just might mind you, blossom into buds.

The most obvious is of infielder Trey Mancini, who will be watched and admired all over the sports world and beyond.

When Mancini was last seen in uniform, he had completed a breakthrough 2019 season. Whatever the Birds were going to be last year, Mancini would be a cornerstone.

That is until last March, when, in the midst of spring training, Mancini began to feel sluggish, perhaps he thought initially, because of gluten intolerance.

But a subsequent colonoscopy revealed that he instead had colon cancer, stage three to be precise.

Mancini returned to Baltimore and almost immediately underwent surgery followed by rounds of chemotherapy.

Suddenly, the fight to win a pennant seemed inconsequential laid against the fight to stay alive, but Mancini, who missed 2020, vowed to beat cancer and get back to baseball in time for Opening Day.

Mancini reported to spring training last month and not only earned a spot on the roster, but a place in the Opening Day lineup at first base.

And when the opener arrived, Mancini went one-for-three with a walk and a run scored in the Orioles’ shutout of Boston. His story will no doubt be monitored and admired all over baseball and sports, especially by fellow cancer survivors like me.

Of a less inspiring, but nonetheless interesting note is the potential comeback of pitcher Matt Harvey, who is attempting to relaunch a career that stalled for different reasons than Trey Mancini.

In 2013, Harvey was the toast of New York, striking out nearly 200 batters for the Mets, and earning the start in that year’s All-Star Game.

An injury to his throwing elbow cost him the 2014 season, but he returned in 2015 with a vengeance, posting a 13-8 record with a 2.71 ERA.

From there, however, things went south, as Harvey lost velocity on his pitches, following a second ailment. He bounced from New York to Cincinnati to the Angels to Kansas City, but couldn’t recapture the magic.

The Royals let him go, and the Orioles picked him up on a minor league deal, meaning he had to essentially audition for the big-league team.

He landed on the major league roster and pitched well Saturday, giving up two runs and striking out four in 4 2/3 innings, as the Orioles won 4-2.

Of course, we’ll all have to be wary that we don’t get fooled by April in rooting for Matt Harvey and Trey Mancini, but no one should mind being fooled by being hopeful.

And that’s how I see it for this week.

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Twitter: @SportsAtLarge

Milton Kent hosted the weekly commentary Sports at Large from its creation in 2002 to its finale in July 2013. He has written about sports locally and nationally since 1988, covering the Baltimore Orioles, University of Maryland men's basketball, women's basketball and football, the Washington Wizards, the NBA, men's and women's college basketball and sports media for the Baltimore Sun and AOL Fanhouse. He has covered the World Series, the American and National League Championship Series, the NFL playoffs, the NBA Finals and 17 NCAA men's and women's Final Fours. He currently teaches journalism at Morgan State University.