Lighter Segura ready to play wherever needed

Phillies shortstop lost 14 pounds as he prepares for position switch

February 17th, 2020

CLEARWATER, Fla. --  lived the clean life this winter in the Dominican Republic. He ate better, drank less, slept more and trained harder.

He came to camp 14 pounds lighter.

“You can put 14 pounds on your shoulders and go running ... you’ll feel how heavy it is,” he said Monday at Spectrum Field.

Segura is beginning his second season with the Phillies. He hopes it will be better than the first. He knows it will be different. Segura slashed .280/.323/.420 with a 90 OPS+ last season, a noticeable drop from his previous three seasons with Arizona and Seattle (.308/.353/.449, 116 OPS+). All of his appearances came at shortstop in 2019, but he will play there rarely this year. He knew that the moment the Phillies signed shortstop Didi Gregorius to a one-year, $14 million contract in December.

But where will Segura play? It is one of the spring's more interesting storylines, which Phillies manager Joe Girardi said might not be decided until the middle of March. Segura had his best season in 2016, when he played second base with Arizona. He has never played third before, though he worked out at the hot corner Monday. Those are considerations as the Phillies align their 2020 infield.

“He's comfortable at second,” Girardi said. “So maybe he doesn't need as many reps at second as we're trying to figure out who is going to play third and who is going to play second. He looked really good there today. He almost looks really natural there because of the different arm angles he's accustomed to throwing with. It was good to see. He was having fun out there.”

Scott Kingery, meanwhile, is a dynamic second baseman, but he showed last season that he can handle himself at third. Do the Phillies play Segura where he is most comfortable, which could help him return to form offensively? Or do they look past that and form a potentially elite-level middle infield with Gregorius and Kingery?

Segura said the right things Monday.

“As a professional baseball player, I have to understand what’s best for the team, what’s best for the organization,” he said. “I’m here. Whatever they want me to do, I’ll do it. ... If you play short at the big league level, you can play other positions naturally, because shortstop is one of the toughest to play at the big league level. So I don't think this is going to be a problem. I don't think this is going to be a big deal to play another position on the diamond. Sometimes you prefer some position, but in this situation, you have to do what's best for the team.”

Segura’s preference is almost certainly second because of the reasons mentioned above. He hit .319 with 20 home runs, 64 RBIs and an .867 OPS at second base with Arizona in 2016. He finished 13th in voting for the National League Most Valuable Player Award.

He was asked why he had his best year there.

“It’s one of those years that everything went your way,” he said. “I was in shock. I was surprised with the kind of year that I had that year. But I think second base ... you can rest more. You don’t have to charge all those ground balls. You just wait for the ground ball. I think, body-wise, it’s more relaxed and you’re resting more than when you play short. I don’t know, man. Maybe different pitching. Maybe different division. There are a lot of things that maybe affected it. Maybe not.”

Segura wants to be better this season, wherever he plays. He took ground balls at both second and third this offseason. He changed his lifestyle to put himself in a better position to succeed. It might have been his most important offseason work.

“I lost some weight, worked out,” he said.

Segura also said he's been going to bed earlier.

“I do the best that I can to stay in this game,” he said. “I come here in better shape and hopefully [I'll] have a good year. I feel pretty good. I feel excited and ready to go.”