When uncaged, Hulett and Segui are producing Long hours of hitting pay off for utility duo

May 24, 1992|By Ken Murray | Ken Murray,Staff Writer

When David Segui has a bad game, he doesn't take it home with him, he takes it to his office.

In this case, that office can be found in the privacy of the Orioles' batting cage under the stands at Camden Yards.

And there, Segui will hit, and hit, and hit some more, until he is satisfied he has solved his problem.

It is the price Segui, 25, happily pays for his role with the Orioles. He is, after all, a role player -- part-time first baseman, part-time outfielder and full-time worker.

It is not unusual, Segui says, for him to be working on his swing in the batting cage as late as 1 o'clock in the morning. That's after games, of course. He is so compelled -- obsessive? -- to correct any flaw in his swing, he'll sometimes hit in the cage during games.

"The other day I hit in the cage the first four innings of a game," he said. "I didn't know what the score was until I came out to the dugout for the fifth inning."

Segui, hitting .259 after going 0-for-4 in last night's 6-2 loss to the California Angels, isn't the only Oriole who is proficient in a part-time role this season.

Tim Hulett, a utility infielder, is hitting .352 with 10 RBI in only 20 games and 54 at-bats.

Segui and Hulett were in the starting lineup against California left-hander Mark Langston, but both went hitless. Both had been informed by manager Johnny Oates on Friday that they would be playing last night.

"He's great about letting you know ahead of time," Segui said.

The trick, of course, is preparing yourself when you are not in the lineup. It's a situation Hulett has faced often during his Orioles career with varying degrees of success. Once a regular with the Chicago White Sox, Hulett, 32, has been a utility player since joining the Orioles in November 1988 as a free agent.

"It takes awhile to get used to the idea of not playing every day," he said. "As a pro athlete, the drive is to play every day."

Like Segui, Hulett works overtime to keep his hitting stroke and his defensive edge. He will take extra ground balls at second base and third, and he will take extra swings in the batting cage.

What may have prepared Hulett even better for his role this year, though, is how he spent the off-season. Last winter, he opened a hitting center in his hometown of Springfield, Ill., with Claude Kracik, baseball coach at Lincoln Land Community College. It is called The Hulett-Kracik Hitting Center.

Hulett gave private and group hitting lessons throughout the winter.

"The guy who got the most benefit was me," he said. "It helped simplify the mechanics of my swing. I taught that when something is not right, you go to a 1-2-3 method [of adjustment]. The more I taught, the more I realized I didn't do that."

The spinoff, whether direct or indirect, is that Hulett is having the best hitting streak of his big-league career. He is 11-for-21 (.524) in May and is batting .500 (7-for-14) with runners in scoring position.

It takes special talent to do that coming off the bench, said Orioles coach Davey Lopes, who was a utility player himself late in his career with the Chicago Cubs.

"It's a tough job to be good at," Lopes said. "To have those kind of weapons on the bench is something every manager would like to have."

Segui thrives on doing extra work to refine his stroke. He will often take 300 swings at a time in the batting cage.

"A lot of people think I overdo it," he said, "but I swing until I can feel I have it [a groove] back. I'll hit in the cage after a game if I'm not happy. If I go home and I'm not satisfied with the way I'm swinging the bat, I'm not going to be able to sleep."

After starting the season 1-for-20, Segui has gone 20-for-61, a .329 average. He has had three three-hit games this year.

"It's harder to produce in this role than if I were playing every day," Segui said.

"Everybody wants to play every day. Nobody is happy being a role player off the bench. But I realize with the players we have it's not possible for me now. The guys ahead of me at first base [Glenn Davis and Randy Milligan] should be playing every day. Sometimes, you have to wait your turn. That's what I'm doing."

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