When Jameson Taillon first set foot on the mound Wednesday night, it marked his return from a second Tommy John surgery. There was another moment, however, that highlighted the Yankees pitcher’s resilience in another way.
The same went for his opponent in the batter’s box.
When Orioles No. 2 hitter Trey Mancini stepped up to the plate, it created a major-league matchup of two cancer survivors.
While the game that followed—a 4-3 Orioles win that ended on a play at the plate after 11 innings—was chaotic, nothing dramatic happened as a result of the at-bat. Mancini grounded out on two pitches, thus starting an 0-for-4 evening. Taillon went on to allow two earned runs over 4 2/3 frames.
That at-bat, easy to overlook with so much else happening in the game, the sport and the world, was nonetheless significant. It was a testament to each player’s perseverance.
For Mancini, it was his sixth game back after losing the entire 2020 season to a battle with Stage 3 colon cancer. He underwent six months of chemotherapy and days when he didn’t have the strength to get up.
Simply beating the disease would have been inspirational, but Mancini made it back to the majors, too.
“The biggest problems in my life had all been baseball slumps,” Mancini told Sports Illustrated's Stephanie Apstein leading up to Opening Day. “I think I’ll enjoy my career even more than I would have if I didn’t go through this.”
Taillon echoed similar sentiments following his Yankees debut.
In addition to his two Tommy John surgeries, the righty was diagnosed with testicular cancer in May of 2017. A Pirate at the time, Taillon underwent surgery and missed five weeks of his sophomore season.
With so much time lost over the years, the 29-year-old felt “extremely grateful” to make his first big-league start since May 1, 2019 on Wednesday.
“This is gonna sound cheesy, but I'll never take a day in a big-league uniform for granted,” Taillon said postgame. “That's for sure."
Taillon had been asked about Mancini’s comeback the day before their matchup. The two had yet to talk at the time, but that was something Taillon was hoping to change in the near future.
In the meantime, he’s wishing for the best for his division rival in Baltimore.
“Any cancer is bad,” Taillon said Tuesday. “That’s scary. That’s bigger than baseball. I know that there are a lot of guys around baseball that are excited to see him back. They’re in our division, we compete against them, but—I’m sure people have heard it before—baseball is a family and at the end of the day we’re all rooting for each other to have our health and safety.
“There’s not many guys in the cancer club that are in the big leagues, so I’d love to catchup with him at some point and just talk about what we’ve both been through. He’s a guy that can inspire a lot of people.”
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