Why Seager could be poised for big rebound

March 18th, 2023

This story was excerpted from Kennedi Landry’s Rangers Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- rounded the bases at Camelback Ranch, and uncharacteristically joked to the opposing pitcher after launching a deep home run over the center-field wall, just off the batter’s eye.

The opposing pitcher was his old teammate and good friend , who wasn’t particularly shocked by the turn of events. 

“He said, 'You knew I was gonna swing,’” Kershaw told reporters postgame. “I said, ‘You're right, I did.’ I love Seags, though, you know. It's good to see him even though it's on another team, but he's one of the best. I love him.

“Seags got me. I mean, I knew he was gonna swing, I threw it as hard as I could. I just thought maybe he'd pop it up and he didn't. So he won. I'll give it to him. Tip my cap. Thankfully, it didn't count. We'll see him again in July.”

Kershaw jokingly added that he’ll have to strike out Seager “like eight times” for them to be even now, despite it just being a Spring Training matchup. 

Seager recalled that it was the first time he faced Kershaw since the 2020 “Summer Camp” after the initial COVID-19 shutdown, but that’s the first time he could remember hitting a home run off of him. 

“It was fun,” Seager said. “Even if he gets you out, it's fun. Yeah, like it's just an old buddy. Better in that scenario where it's spring, it doesn't mean that much where you get to both kind of enjoy it. In season, it will probably be a little different.” 

Seager’s home run against his old friend was his fourth this spring, a shot that extended his hitting streak to nine games. Through 12 Cactus League games, he’s got an OPS of 1.415. 

The Rangers’ franchise shortstop is coming off one of his worst seasons, offensively, but he also hit a career-high 33 home runs. The elimination of defensive shifts should move his batting average back toward his career norm and he has looked like himself throughout the spring.

“It's been an impressive spring,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “It really has. I saw him from the other side [when I was with the Giants], you saw this with him. But it's nice to be in the same dugout with him and he's just in a good place right now. He's got to feel good where he's at right now. He's one of our guys and he’s where he wants to be. I'm sure a couple of guys are still getting their at-bats in and hoping to get to that place, too.”

For Bochy, he’s more than happy Seager is on his team now rather than having to face him. In 65 games against Bochy’s Giants (2015-19), Seager was 63-for-247 with eight home runs and 29 RBIs. 

Bochy was able to watch from in the division just how good Seager was as a young player, especially when he was named the NL Rookie of the Year in 2016. 

“I mean, as much as anything, I noticed just what a dangerous hitter he was,” Bochy said of facing Seager back then. “He is an aggressive hitter. Everybody knows it. But how well he adjusts, you just think you can attack him in different ways, but he has a very good feel for what the pitcher is trying to do to him. It was always just a tough out in the lineup and he was dangerous. I hated seeing him up there with a man on base.”

Entering his second season with Texas, Seager said his comfort level coming into camp this year has played a big part in his performance on the field. He’s in a good place no longer being the new guy, but also having a full Spring Training without feeling rushed to the start of the season.

“There's a big mental thing to all that,” Seager said. “I just think about the comfortability of knowing the organization. Last year [I] was just trying to figure out everything on the fly with a fast brain, even in the season. Now you know what to expect. You know where you're gonna stay, all those things coming into this year is a comfortability factor that helps.”