‘My body was all chills’: Eduardo Rodriguez, Trey Mancini moved by receptions after COVID-19, cancer battles

BALTIMORE — They are professional athletes, so merely competing won’t be enough for Eduardo Rodriguez and Trey Mancini.

One day, Rodriguez hopes to build back to his form of 2019, when the Boston Red Sox hoped to earn their lefty his 20th win on the final day of the season, only for the bullpen to blow a lead against Mancini’s Orioles.

Weeks, perhaps months from now, Mancini would like to make contact with pitches and lift the ball and see his body persevere through a 162-game season as it did all the way to the end of 2019, when he slugged 35 home runs and the Orioles knew they’d have several more years to build around their affable slugger.

They went their separate ways after that final game at Fenway Park, neither with any inkling that 2020 would bring not glory but fear, not sparkling statistics but rather an ugly red line on their stat sheets, a nonexistent year in the baseball world.

In the real world, not within baseball’s metrics but rather their own personal nightmares, Mancini was felled by a stunning spring diagnosis of Stage 3 colon cancer, the removal of a malignant tumor, the hell of chemotherapy.

Five months later, it was Rodriguez walking away from Red Sox summer camp on Aug. 1, unable to respond to the physical rigors of pitching after a bout with myocarditis, the most damaging and potentially deadly aftereffect of COVID-19, which four days after Mancini’s March surgery was declared a global pandemic.

Those parallel challenges were fought in rehab and doctor’s offices and in their own mental challenges of a comeback, until finally, Thursday afternoon, Rodriguez was able to climb a mound and throw a pitch in a major league game, one that happened to be Mancini’s first at Camden Yards since his life changed forever.

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