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Trey Mancini’s next step toward return comes as starting first baseman in Orioles’ spring training opener

Nearly a year since Orioles manager Brandon Hyde last put Trey Mancini’s name in the lineup, he’ll do so again Sunday for Baltimore’s spring training opener.

Mancini will be the Orioles’ starting first baseman Sunday against the Pittsburgh Pirates in the club’s first Grapefruit League contest, his first game action since March 2, 2020. Ten days later, Mancini had surgery to remove a malignant tumor from his colon.

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Treatment for his Stage 3 colon cancer diagnosis paired with the coronavirus pandemic meant Mancini missed all of the abbreviated 2020 season. But he’s a big part of the Orioles’ plans for 2021.

That’s why Hyde intends to be cautious with him as spring training games get underway. Mancini will play every other day to start the spring, a typical schedule for position players, as the club monitors his health closely.

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A natural first baseman, Mancini has predominantly played the outfield while in the majors. But a stocked young outfield and the continued decline of Chris Davis mean most of Mancini’s work this spring will come at first base.

He’ll also get some time at designated hitter, a spot the Orioles could routinely put him in as his body readjusts to playing a full season.

“I’ve talked to him every single day, see how he’s feeling every day,” Hyde said. “We’re just going to continue to communicate. I’ll have him in there every other day for a while, whether it be at first base or DH, and we’ll see how he feels.

“Crank up the playing time, if he feels well, the last couple weeks.”

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The Orioles have previously kept ajar the possibility of Mancini getting work in the outfield, but Hyde said the focus early on will be repetitions at first.

“Definitely not in the beginning,” Hyde said of Mancini playing in the outfield. “I want to play him as much at first base as possible.”

Mancini didn’t play the outfield professionally until his first full season in the majors in 2017, which saw him finish third in American League Rookie of the Year voting. After a down year in 2018, he roared back, putting up All-Star caliber numbers in 2019. At the center of the Orioles’ lineup, he hit 35 home runs with an .899 OPS.

Sunday, he’ll be one step closer to his chance to repeat that success.

“In every standpoint of the game,” he said Monday after the team’s first full-squad workout, “I really do feel just like I did before.”

Around the horn

Relievers Fernando Abad, Eric Hanhold, Josh Rogers, Isaac Mattson, Marcos Diplán and Conner Greene will follow starter Thomas Eshelman on Sunday against Pittsburgh. … Hyde said that even though each would need to be added to the 40-man roster, the veteran trio of Félix Hernández, Matt Harvey and Wade LeBlanc could all make the Orioles’ Opening Day roster together. … Given the lack of traditional split-squad games in this year’s spring schedule, Hyde said the Orioles will explore playing some B games against other organizations to make sure pitchers get the innings they need to be ready for the season.

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