Weary Segura hoping to finish season strong
Brewers' shortstop has been going all-out over the past two years
MILWAUKEE -- Jean Segura is a 23-year-old bundle of fast-twitch muscle fibers, and every single one of them is tired.
Can you blame him? In 2012, Segura made his Major League debut, was traded from the Angels to the Brewers, then won a winter batting title while logging 724 at-bats in 193 games from the Cactus League in February through the Dominican League in December. Less than two months later, Segura was back in Spring Training with the Brewers.
He played extensively in the spring to cement an Opening Day roster spot, made the National League All-Star team and has compiled 616 at-bats and counting -- 60 in parts of 21 Cactus League games and 555 more while starting 134 of the Brewers' first 142 games in the regular season, plus a groundout against Mariano Rivera in the All-Star Game.
For those scoring at home, that's 1,340 sanctioned at-bats in 349 games over the course of 20 months.
"It's tough, especially here in the big leagues where it's six months and you play every day," Segura said. "Spring Training, winter ball, too. It's a lot. I mean, I'm feeling it right now."
And yet, Segura could not rule out going back to the Gigantes del Cibao this winter. He is one of many young Latin American players who feel the pull toward their home leagues, and it is a mixture of pride and practicality.
Segura credits his experience with the Gigantes -- he batted .324 (48-for-148) with two home runs, 21 RBIs and 11 stolen bases -- for his fast start in 2013 with the Brewers. Because the Dominican League is rich with veteran pitchers with nasty breaking balls, Segura arrived in Spring Training essentially in midseason form, and batted .367/.377/.550 in the Cactus League and then .354/.393/.550 in April and May, with 20 extra-base hits in his first 52 games. On June 1, he led the NL in average, hits, total bases and multihit games.
Beyond the baseball, there is a matter of pride, Segura said, playing in front of fans at home. He also worries that if he says no to the Gigantes now, they may say no to him later in his career, when he might need winter ball.
"We'll see," he said. "It's good for young guys to play in that league. At the same time, my future is going to be over here in the Major Leagues, not in winter ball. … It's a tough decision."
The Brewers could take the decision out of Segura's hands. Major League Baseball and the Caribbean Confederation have for years operated under a Winter League Agreement, which governs everything from injuries to excused absences for players to attended MLB fanfests in the U.S. during the Latin American season. The agreement includes a clause by which MLB teams can deny permission for hitters who exceeded a certain number of at-bats, or pitchers who passed a certain level of innings, to compete in his home nation's winter league.
The most recent Winter League Agreement just expired. An MLB spokesperson said the sides were currently negotiating a new agreement and that those talks were productive. But as of Monday, no agreement had been reached.
Brewers assistant general manager Gord Ash declined to say whether the club would block Segura from participating.
"I think it's safe to say that when the time comes, we'll make that decision," Ash said. "We haven't discussed it internally yet.
"We are strong proponents of winter ball for players and the experience it gives you, the additional at-bats and the additional innings pitched. We're not fans of people extending themselves beyond necessary. Rest and recovery is clearly part of the process. That's all I can say, generally."
While that issue plays out, Segura is playing on.
He will enter the Brewers' series in St. Louis on Tuesday with a .301 batting average -- .3009, to be even more precise. After batting .252 in August with no home runs, Segura has been flirting with .300 for about two weeks now, doing just enough to stay above that threshold.
Only one Brewer has batted .300 while logging enough at-bats to qualify for the batting title and playing primarily at shortstop. Robin Yount did it in back-to-back years, from 1982-83, winning the American League MVP Award in '82.
Segura is trying not to check the scoreboard when he steps to the plate.
"If you're going to hit .300, you're going to hit .300," he said. "I don't put pressure on myself to hit .300. I know it's not easy. It's tough, especially in this league."
He added: "I definitely want to hit .300, but I just want to finish strong. When you put pressure and you go 0-for-4, 0-for-5, and you see the average go down, you always think too much and you're going to struggle. So I really don't think about my numbers."