If Segui isn't on, then hit the deck

KEN ROSENTHAL

February 25, 1993|By KEN ROSENTHAL

SARASOTA, Fla. -- Which Oriole is the most dangerous to approach after he makes an out? Judging by the number of bats and helmets thrown, the surprise answer is mild-mannered David Segui.

"One time he came up to the plate and hit a screaming line drive to left for a base hit," recalls Orioles minor-league instructor Tom Brown, who was the Hagerstown pitching coach when Segui played Single-A and Double-A ball there in 1988 and 1989.

He got to first base and was just fuming, hitting himself in the helmet, griping that he should have hit a home run on that pitch."

All right, that was the minors.

Surely, Segui is calmer now.

"Nothing's changed," Orioles manager Johnny Oates says. "Sometimes, he gets to be on the ridiculous side, and I think he's going to hurt himself.

"He goes down to the [clubhouse] tunnel, and I keep listening. First it's the helmet, then the bat. I keep wondering if his head is going to be next. What else is he going to hit?"

Hard to believe we're talking about one of the most mature and intelligent of the Orioles' young players, but Brown describes Segui as "the ultimate perfectionist . . . his own worst critic."

Indeed, Segui's burning desire to succeed is the reason club officials are convinced he will become a quality major-leaguer. That's why they protected him in the expansion draft and project him as their first baseman if Glenn Davis gets injured.

The switch-hitting Segui, 26, lacks the tools scouts covet most -- speed and power. But he's a tireless worker and gifted defensive player who hit .312 in the minors and is always thinking of ways to improve.

At Hagerstown, Brown remembers him standing outside the clubhouse and taking 200 swings off a tee, even if the stadium lights were out and he had just gone 4-for-4.

Last season, Orioles assistant general manager Doug Melvin recalls peeking out his office window and seeing him running alone in the Camden Yards outfield after games.

And this winter, Segui spent hours hitting in an indoor batting cage he constructed in a barn on a 60-acre lot he purchased behind his parents' home in Kansas City, Kan.

"Now I need to have a good season, so I can put a house on it, instead of living in the barn," he says, jokingly.

Segui also lifted weights three hours a day, six days a week.

With the added bulk, he weighs 221 pounds -- 19 more than listed on the Orioles' spring roster.

"I'm worried about you," pitcher Rick Sutcliffe said after Segui reported to Twin Lakes Park yesterday. "Those little bloops you hit over third base might be F-7s now."

Segui laughed, but that's the idea -- to get stronger, improve his power. His off-season regimen included hitting sessions with his father, former major-league pitcher Diego Segui. "I've got a lot more power than I've shown," says Segui, who has hit 25 homers in 1,720 professional at-bats.

"I think I can hit 15-20 home runs if I play every day. I was just doing some things with my swing that took my power away."

Segui figures to make at least 60 starts at first base this season, presuming Davis fulfills Oates' goal of playing 100 games in the field. He also will continue playing outfield -- Oates says, "he might be the third best outfielder I've got."

The increase in at-bats can mean only one thing:

Duck!

"No doubt about it, he's the most explosive on our ballclub," Oates says. "At times, Brady [Anderson] can get that way. Billy [Ripken] used to get that way. But David's a very, very intense player. Don't say, 'tough luck,' to him. He doesn't want to hear it."

Back in Hagerstown, "it was always something," Brown says.

"Every at-bat should be a line drive in the gap -- that was his theory. It was almost like, 'I dare you to let me play. I'm going to show you.' "

His attitude was understandable, considering that he wasn't drafted out of high school, nor in his first two years of junior college. When the Orioles finally selected him out of Louisiana Tech in 1987, it was in the 18th round.

Still, even as a boy, he was a hothead.

"That's just the way I play," Segui says. "I'm not proud of it. I don't intentionally set out to do it. But sometimes, I just snap.

"Some people take it as being a crybaby. I don't care how people look at it. It's just the way I motivate myself. I expect to get a hit every time."

Or else.

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