Segura returns to lineup, .300 streak in jeopardy

September 21st, 2019

CLEVELAND -- Phillies shortstop Jean Segura has finished with at least a .300 batting average in each of the past three seasons, but the right-handed hitter entered Saturday’s matchup in Cleveland needing a blistering final week of 2019 to extend his streak.

In fact, Phillies manager Gabe Kapler had already done the math.

“If he goes 22-for-his-next-40, he hits .301,” Kapler said prior to the game on Saturday night. “Part of the reason is because I know it’s something that he prides himself on. He feels like he’s a .300 hitter. I spent some time thinking about that today. I want him to be thinking about that.”

Segura was scratched on Friday night due to left ankle soreness. He was back in the lineup Saturday -- he tested his ankle pregame before officially earning the start -- and Kapler was eager to see if the 29-year-old middle infielder could get hot enough to lift his average the 17 points necessary over the final 10 games to reach the .300 mark. Segura doubled and went 1-for-4 in Saturday night's 9-4 Phillies win over the Indians at Progressive Field.

“That would be a scorching-hot stretch,” Kapler said. “But it’s not unheard of to see a guy go 20-for-40. It’s possible.”

Segura is wrapping up his first season with the Phillies. He entered Saturday’s game against the Indians with a .283/.328/.428 slash line with 12 homers and 59 RBIs in 137 games.

“I think there’s more in the tank,” Kapler said. “I think he’s a .300 hitter. In fact, I don’t want to blame it all on luck, but there’s been a lot of line drives that have found gloves. So you could see if he had five hits go his way, how .300 would be a much more attainable goal right now.”

Regardless of the finish, Kapler sees Segura’s first year in Philadelphia as a success.

“This is a really good building-block year for him,” Kapler said. “He’s been pretty durable this year, too. Dependable.”

Bruce back at DH

After joining the Phillies in early June, outfielder Jay Bruce helped carry the Philadelphia offense into the All-Star break, posting a .949 OPS and slugging 10 homers in his first 28 games as a member of the Phillies.

But since the break, struggles and injuries have plagued Bruce. A right oblique strain cost the veteran outfielder some time in late July and early August. After returning from that ailment, he missed nearly all of August due to a flexor strain in his left elbow.

Bruce was in the lineup as the DH for a second straight game Saturday, marking his only two starts since returning earlier this month.

“I’m very confident in putting him in the lineup,” Kapler said. "I also said it shouldn’t be discounted what happened in every at-bat last night. He sprinted to first base. He hit balls into the shift, never shook his head running down the line. I value that this time of year. For those reasons, I think he can play any role.”

Bruce is under contract next year for $14 million. What role he’ll play with the Phillies is yet to be determined. Kapler can envision Bruce succeeding as a reserve, but he isn’t ruling out Bruce’s ability to continue serving as an everyday player.

“He and I have had conversations about what he’s going to focus on this offseason,” Kapler said. “He said something really insightful. He said, ‘I believe if I can stay the same, then I can be a very productive player for the next five years.’ The way he beats Father Time is by staying the same, staying at the same level, and I buy [his ability to do that].”

Relief in sight

Juan Nicasio (right rotator cuff tendinitis) threw live batting practice Saturday, and Kapler still believes there’s a chance the righty could return before the end of the season.

“The way I would describe the outing today was healthy,” Kapler said. “He got a little bit tired toward the end, but that’s to be expected.”