Orioles rookie Trey Mancini reflects on 'career-changing' major league debut one year ago

When Trey Mancini woke up Wednesday morning and peeked at his cell phone, the date that shined back at him was one he'll never forget. Last Sept. 20, the Orioles rookie made his major league debut and hit his first career homer against the same Boston Red Sox he faced Wednesday.

His September cameo a season ago set up what has been a tremendous season, with the 25-year-old Mancini seizing a spot on the Opening Day roster and putting together a rookie year that puts him in the same breath as club legends Cal Ripken Jr. and Eddie Murray.


"It's a date I'll always remember," Mancini said. "It was huge — possibly life- and career-changing.

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"From getting the call, having some early success gave me some confidence being up here in a postseason run, trying to get a postseason spot, too. All of that combined, really, in the course of two weeks kind of made me realize what it means to be here and kind of what it takes to succeed. It was huge, and it's pretty crazy that a year has passed since then and how much has changed. It's cool to reflect back on that."

Mancini's first home run came in just his second major league at-bat, and two days after the Orioles purchased his contract on Sept. 18, 2016. He got four starts against left-handed pitching and hit a home run in three of them.

All that brought him plenty of attention, which was supplemented by images of his mother's elation after his first home run spreading across the internet for days after the blast. It was a moment he still recalls as "really special," one that made his debut all the sweeter. How Mancini handled the quick success and attention made a lasting impression on his teammates and manager Buck Showalter.

"I like the effort, the attention to trying to be good at all phases of the game," Showalter said. "Very humble guy that everybody fell in like with very quickly because he's just sincere, humble, works hard with blinders on. Very competitive."

Mancini carried that confidence through the winter, and looking at the depth chart — with Chris Davis and Mark Trumbo locked in at first base and designated hitter — he worked on his own in the outfield before the Orioles made that work public in mid-March.

By May, he was the team's everyday left fielder and grew to play adequate defense at his new position, all while entering Wednesday with 24 home runs, 77 RBIs and an .833 OPS that ranks second among Orioles regulars this year.

Most of his power came earlier in the season, and he's been scraping to keep his average up through the second half, but that's all the more evidence that Mancini had adjusted well to the level he arrived at last September.

"It's a big difference," Mancini said. "I came up through the minors and everything, and it's definitely not the same. It's much more challenging here. I don't want to say exposed, but pitchers figure out some weaknesses and stuff pretty quick here. So there's multiple times throughout the year where I've had to make adjustments because they had to make adjustments, too. You learn a lot about the game throughout the course of the season, too."

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That he parlayed a few big swings in September into a starting role the next spring is the blueprint the Orioles hope continues with this year's expanded roster additions, including outfielder Austin Hays and catcher Chance Sisco. Hays, 22, went into Wednesday with seven hits in 23 at-bats, including a home run and two doubles, as he emerges as a regular option down the stretch. Hays even batted leadoff with Tim Beckham and Manny Machado out of the lineup Wednesday.

Mancini got a simple piece of advice that made his success in the minors translate, and he's passed it along this month.

"It's the same game," Mancini said. "What Caleb Joseph has told me this year probably resonated more than any advice I've received — don't change what got you here. Everybody is obviously a little better at this level, the game is a little quicker, but whatever gets you here and your strengths are, you've got to keep using. You can't change as a player too much."

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