O's Segui ready for full course at plate

Oft-injured first baseman back to switch-hitting

Baseball

February 20, 2003|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. - The wrist surgery that prevented first baseman David Segui from batting right-handed last season no longer restricts him at the plate. That might have been the best news for the Orioles to come out of yesterday's first full-squad workout.

Segui said he has been hitting from both sides of the plate for 1 1/2 months, with the pain gone once he broke up the scar tissue.

"Once I started hitting, the first couple days it was stiff and sore and you swing through it," he said. "Then it got to the point where it was fine. It's not a factor at all. I feel good."

When's the last time Segui could say that?

His surgery on May 21 repaired torn cartilage and an injured tendon, causing him to miss the last 122 games. In 2001, Segui appeared in only 82 games because of an assortment of injuries and had surgery to remove bone chips in his left knee.

In two seasons since signing a four-year, $28 million contract, Segui has played in 108 games and left a gaping hole in the third slot in manager Mike Hargrove's order.

"With the amount of games I've missed, there's only been short periods of time where we've had the lineup in place," Segui said. "They went out and got me to be a key bat in the middle of the lineup. They've never had the luxury of being able to use that since I got here, so I look forward to going out and seeing how that bat affects the rest of the lineup.

"A bat here, a bat there, does make a difference. Grover's not having to shuffle the lineup every day, trying to figure how, `Can he play today?' and having one lineup if I can and another if I can't."

Segui tried to return late last season, but Hargrove didn't want to risk damaging the wrist if he couldn't hit right-handed. The pain wouldn't subside even after the surgery, which filled him with doubts about resuming his career.

"The first couple months, it was awful," he said. "Until I started hitting, it's one of those things where you wonder if you'll ever hit that way again. That thought crossed my mind a lot. It got pretty serious because it never got to the point where it just felt better overnight. I really didn't know anything until I started swinging and could see how it reacted."

A chronically sore knee, the result of missing cartilage that causes bone to rub on bone, has held up so far this winter. Segui lost some weight "to take a little pounding off my legs" and focused more on cardiovascular training.

"My legs feel great. My knees aren't hurting," he said. "They haven't felt like this in probably eight years."

All he needs now is better luck. The wrist injury occurred while sliding into home plate during an April 26 game at Kansas City. Segui hurt his hamstring in spring training when he stepped in a hole during a base-running drill. The knee injury occurred in 2001 when his spikes caught in the dirt while batting.

"There's nothing you can do," he said. "I've been in good condition my whole career. Avoiding those fluky little injuries that seem to find me will be key. You can't prepare yourself for those."

NOTES: Melvin Mora will report late because his flight out of Baltimore was canceled. The Orioles expect him to arrive today. Outfielder Raymond Cabrera has been delayed because of visa problems in the Dominican Republic. ... Hargrove continues to run the same workouts each day since pitcher Steve Bechler's death. "You look at everything, and if there was a reason to change - if we didn't have water available or there was something wrong with the workout - we would change it. But looking at it, there's nothing wrong with the workout," he said.

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