Blue and Gold Illustrated

April 2021

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

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52 APRIL 2021 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED IRISH IN THE PROS BY ANDREW MENTOCK O n Feb. 28, Baltimore Orioles first baseman Trey Mancini stepped into the batter's box at Ed Smith Sta- dium in Sarasota, Fla., to a standing ovation. Those on their feet included every fan in attendance, as well as the entire Pittsburgh Pirates organi- zation — that afternoon's opponent. After pausing for the ensuing at-bat, cheers reemerged when Mancini sin- gled to center and rounded first base. He had missed the entire 2020 sea- son after a malignant tumor in his colon was discovered in early spring. After surgery and 12 treatments of chemotherapy, the 6-4, 230-pound slugger was deemed cancer-free in September and began preparing for a return to Major League Baseball. "It was amazing," Mancini said of his single in the 6-4 loss to Pirates. "I almost teared up a bit, I'm not going to lie." In 2019, his last full season, he played 154 games and hit .291 on his way to a career-high 35 home runs. That year, many felt he was snubbed from the All-Star Game and should have a shot at redemption in 2021. Born and raised in Winter Haven, Fla., Mancini played at Notre Dame from 2011-13. He hit .389 with seven home runs and 54 RBI as a junior, and turned professional after the Ori- oles selected him in the eighth round of the 2013 MLB Draft. NOTRE DAME PLAYERS IN MLB SPRING TRAINING Through March 7 • Brandon Bielak (Played at Notre Dame 2015‑17), RHP, Houston Astros: Was up and down in 2020, his first season in MLB … Compiled a 3-3 record, a 6.75 ERA and 26 strikeouts in 32 innings over six starts and six relief appearances … Attempting to earn a spot on the Astros' 25-man roster … Surrendered four runs in two innings in his Grapefruit League debut, but rebounded to toss three scoreless innings against Miami March 5. • Cavan Biggio (2014‑16), INF/OF, Toronto Blue Jays: Batted .250 with eight home runs, 28 RBI and six stolen bases in 59 games last season … Has played all over the outfield during the start of spring training, but also may have an opportunity to win the starting job at third base … Was 2 for 9 (.222) with two RBI in his first five spring outings. • Joe Hudson (2010‑12), C, Pittsburgh Pirates: The 30-year-old inked a minor league contract with the Pirates in January and earned an invite to spring training … Has a career average of .167 with a total of 33 plate appearances in 18 MLB games over the last three seasons … Was 1 for 2 with a home run in three games so far this spring. • David Phelps (2006‑08), RHP, Toronto Blue Jays: Signed a $1.75 million deal with the Blue Jays as a free agent … Made 22 relief appearances with the Milwaukee Brewers and Philadelphia Phillies last year. Notched a 2-4 record and 6.53 ERA in 20 2 ⁄3 innings … Has thrown two scoreless innings so far this spring. • A.J. Pollock (2007‑09), OF, Los Angeles Dodg‑ ers: Helped the Dodgers win the 2020 World Se- ries, the storied franchise's first championship since 1988 … Batted .276 with 16 home runs and 34 RBI in 55 games … Competing for a starting job this spring, but was off to a 1-for-9 start (.111 aver- age) through four games. • Jeff Samardzija (2003‑06), RHP, Free Agent: After his five-year stint with the San Francisco Gi- ants came to an end last year, he is hoping to play one more season but has yet to sign with a new team for 2021 … Was 0-2 with a 9.72 ERA in four starts last season, but boasts a career ERA of 4.16 in 1,645 1 ⁄3 innings over 364 MLB appearances. ✦ Mancini, who was deemed cancer-free in September, received a standing ovation in his first game back with the Baltimore Orioles during spring training Feb. 28 and then promptly delivered a base hit. PHOTO COURTESY BALTIMORE ORIOLES Trey Mancini Beats Cancer And Returns To Action NFL FREE AGENCY • Three NFL veterans and Notre Dame alumni were released by their respective teams this offseason: offensive lineman Nick Martin (2011-15) of the Houston Texans, tight end Kyle Rudolph (2008-10) of the Minnesota Vikings and wide receiver Golden Tate (2007-09) of the New York Giants. The Giants were Tate's fourth NFL franchise, while Martin and Rudolph had played for the Texans and Vikings their entire professional careers. "My career is my career, and I'm really excited about whatever is around the corner," Rudolph wrote in The Players' Tribune. "I think I have a lot of good football still to play — and the fire inside of me to win a Super Bowl is burning as strong as ever. That's the one big goal I have left." • On another positive note, offensive lineman Alex Bars re-signed with the Chicago Bears, inking a one-year, $850,000 contract.

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