`Not a DH,' O's Segui takes healthy approach into year

1st baseman vows injuries are behind him at FanFest

January 13, 2002|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

The most frustrating season of David Segui's major-league career is behind him. He's hoping to shove all the doubts about his physical condition in the same place.

Attending yesterday's FanFest at the Baltimore Convention Center, Segui said he's healthy enough to resume his intended role as the Orioles' regular first baseman. Now he must convince manager Mike Hargrove, who indicated on Friday that he's leaning toward using Segui primarily as the club's designated hitter.

"I'm not a DH," Segui said, "but I don't make out the lineup card."

He made up part of the disabled list last season, battling through an assortment of injuries and illnesses after signing a four-year, $28 million contract to rejoin the organization. Segui appeared in only one of the last 35 games because of persistent pain in his left knee, which led to surgery on Oct. 22.

The procedure, performed by Dr. Steve Joyce in Kansas City, Mo., removed particles from a cartilage tear that were stuck under the kneecap and cleaned some fraying where a tendon attaches.

"I've been 100 percent for a month-and-a-half," Segui said before signing autographs and posing for photos. "I had to lay off it for about three or four weeks. Then I just started right back up. I've been running and doing everything I usually do."

Segui went on the DL for a second time retroactive to July 16 and missed 21 games with a sprained ligament in the knee, which occurred while twisting his cleats in the dirt during an at-bat. Hobbled early in the spring with a pulled hamstring, Segui made a career-high nine errors after beginning the season as the all-time fielding percentage leader at first base (.996).

The Orioles were 38-44 (.463) with a .261 team batting average and 4.7 runs per game when Segui played. Without him, they were 25-54 (.316) with a .235 average and 3.8 runs. Hargrove figures less time in the field will translate into more games in the lineup.

"Whoever they're going to put at first is fine, but I'd rather play first base," said Segui, whose weight has dropped from 238 to 222. "Physically, my knee feels better than it has in the last two or three years. If they wanted me to play 162 games at first base, that's my goal going into spring training. I'm sure [Hargrove] is still in the mind-set of how my leg was at the end of last season."

The years of wear have left Segui with bone-on-bone in the knee, a condition he said has existed for five seasons and doesn't concern him. "I have a groove worn down on the underside of my kneecap, so that hurts all the time. I'm used to that. That's part of the everyday thing," he said.

Segui's misfortune last season included an inner-ear infection that caused vertigo and cost him six games in August. "From spring training on, it was one thing after another," he said. "I wasn't miserable or anything, but it was frustrating not being able to get on the field. It was pretty much a lost year in my book."

It wasn't much kinder to outfielder Chris Richard, who appeared in 54 more games than Segui but might be out until the All-Star break after having surgery on his left shoulder to reattach the capsule and clean some fraying in the rotator cuff. Richard will swing a bat in February and begin a throwing program the following month.

"I'm probably about 5 percent away from full range of motion," said Richard, who will be re-examined on Thursday. It's possible that Richard could return sooner as a designated hitter, but the Orioles will remain cautious.

"Chris slides headfirst a lot. I'd think with the surgery, that would be a bad thing to do," Hargrove said. "Logic says it's probably going to be closer to the time the doctors are projecting, but we'll see how it goes. We want to do the right thing."

The Orioles remain in the market for another outfielder, whether to bat leadoff or in the fourth slot. Rickey Henderson contacted Syd Thrift, the club's vice president of baseball operations, two days ago, but the 43-year-old free agent isn't a solution.

"I told him we have 40 men on the roster, we've got young players and we can't deprive them. He understands that," said Thrift, who was Oakland's director of baseball operations in 1976 when it drafted Henderson in the fourth round.

Ticketed for the Hall of Fame, Henderson collected his 3,000th career hit with San Diego last season. He already ranks as baseball's all-time stolen base leader.

"I told him, `You've got to go someplace where you'll get to play,' " Thrift said.

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