On day of firsts, Segui is Mets' main man there

March 29, 1994|By Peter Schmuck | Peter Schmuck,Sun Staff Writer

VIERA, Fla. -- New York Mets first baseman David Segui looked around the visitors clubhouse yesterday and picked out a few familiar faces, but the newness of it all was almost overwhelming.

"It's weird looking around and seeing blue everywhere instead of orange and black," he said.

That's not the half of it. Segui stepped into a new uniform, a new league and a new role all in the same day. For the first time in his career, he will go into a major-league season as the No. 1 first baseman.

"That's what we got him for," said Mets manager Dallas Green. "He's penciled in there . . . no doubt about that."

It must seem strange after all the years of caddying for Randy Milligan and Glenn Davis and -- for a few weeks this spring -- Rafael Palmeiro. Segui campaigned quietly for this trade from the day Palmeiro signed a five-year contract and turned him into a utility man.

Nothing like that figures to happen in New York. The Mets provided the perfect irony when they released Glenn Davis at the time of the deal. Segui is the only pure first baseman on the roster, so he'll enter the season as a full-time player and probably the everyday No. 2 hitter.

"He probably fits best there," Green said. "I might call [Johnny] Oates and talk to him a little bit, but that seems like a strong possibility."

Though a deal involving Segui was not unexpected, the possibility of a trade with the Mets seemed to disappear during the winter. Mets general manager Joe McIlvaine attempted to acquire Segui after the Orioles signed Palmeiro, but discussions cooled after the club signed Davis to a minor-league contract.

"We identified Segui as one of the players who potentially could be available," said Mets assistant general manager Jerry Hunsicker. "We had discussions on and off, but nothing progressed very rapidly. When we got Davis in camp, we backed off of looking for a first baseman, because we wanted an opportunity to see what we had."

Davis wasn't a total disappointment. He was leading the club with three home runs and tied for the club lead with 11 RBIs when he was cut loose Sunday evening, but the Mets were not confident he would remain healthy and productive.

"I think the biggest thing was, we had the ability to acquire an above- average defensive player," Hunsicker said. "This will make our infield better and give us another bat who is going to hit for average."

The company line was that the Mets were willing to trade some power for defensive stability and offensive cohesiveness. Segui, who hit .273 with 10 home runs and 60 RBIs last season, isn't going to hit for power, but he does figure to put the bat on the ball more consistently than Davis.

"We felt we already had a number of players who can hit the long ball but are going to hit for a low average," Hunsicker said. "We were willing to give up some long-ball potential for average."

That made the long-awaited trade a bittersweet moment for Segui, who had become Davis' friend during the three years they were together in Baltimore. Even though Segui knew his playing time hung in the balance, he was one of Davis' biggest defenders when Orioles fans began to boo him last year.

"Every day this spring, I have looked in the paper, hoping that he would do well," Segui said. "I want him to have a good year and flaunt it in the face of all those people who got on him. I wanted to see him do well, because he is such a nice guy."

Instead, Davis is looking for a job and Segui finally has found one.

He said his goodbyes at the Orioles complex early yesterday and drove across the state in time to get one plate appearance (a walk) in the Mets' 5-2 win over Florida.

Coming over was easy. Leaving was the hard part.

"It was a lot harder than I thought it would be," Segui said. "Saying goodbye to guys like Tim Hulett, Leo [Gomez] and coaches like Jerry Narron, who I played for in the minor leagues. There are a lot of guys over there I have a lot of respect for.

"Driving away it really hit me. It was like leaving home for the first time. Part of you couldn't wait to get out on the road and part of you doesn't want to leave everyone behind. I hope they win it all. I'd love to have been a part of that, but not in that role."

There are just enough familiar faces in the Mets clubhouse to make it easy to walk in. Utility man Jeff McKnight played for the Orioles briefly. Joe Orsulak is entering his second year with the Mets after spending five years in Baltimore. Tommy McCraw was his hitting coach in 1990 and '91.

Segui looked across the room to see another familiar face -- former Seattle pitcher Fernando Vina.

"I got to meet Fernando in that brawl with the Mariners," Segui said with a laugh. "He was choking Leo at the time."

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