Once again, injuries have Segui playing waiting game

April 24, 2003|By Laura Vecsey

DON'T TALK TO David Segui about being put out to pasture. He knows what happens to ballplayers whose time is up.

Take his father, for example.

Diego Segui, the Cuban emigre who fled his country at age 17 and wound up pitching 15 years in the major leagues, has taken up cattle farming back home in Kansas City, Mo.

The father's 30 acres and the son's 60 acres abut, but David has insisted that fences keep his father's cows in their place.

"He started with two. He bought them for my grandmother. He was finally able to bring my grandparents from Cuba when they were around 70. Now my grandmother is 93. They lived on a farm in Cuba, so to make her feel at home, he bought two cows," Segui said.

"At first, it was a hobby. Now it's an obsession. He raises cattle. He doesn't sell them. He won't eat them. He just gives them names and gets attached to them. He has twenty-something now. He has all the equipment, and now he wants to expand into my property. I said no. They make ruts in the grass, and you can ruin your legs."

Lord knows Segui doesn't need any more ruts lurking in his already rocky path.

To look at Segui is to make the snap assessment that he is everything you would want in a major leaguer.

Skilled. (Great glove was in action again this spring.)

Built. (If you excuse creatine shakes, the man is a Nautilus madman.)

Versatile. (He has played right field, first, designated hitter.)

Accomplished. (Worthy of Gold Glove in 1998 but not when Rafael Palmeiro's always a lock; career .293 hitter.)

Pedigreed. (Son of Diego.)

Well, Segui is almost everything you'd want in a big leaguer. Even he would begin to concede he's a bit jinxed.

Last week, when he heard that ugly popping sound in his leg while running out a ground ball in Cleveland, Segui said he felt an uncharacteristic pang of futility.

"Usually, I don't think about about things like my career, how it's going. Maybe I will when it's over. For now I just do it, get it done, move on," he said.

"In Cleveland, when I did it, I wanted to say, `Screw it. Let me pack my stuff up and go home. I'm tired of it.' "

By yesterday, however, the Orioles' alleged DH was back to his old suck-it-up self. A master wisecracker, Segui said he is not prone to too much introspection, which is good for guys in his position, since, as he says, "it could drive you nuts."

But it does bother him, all this bad injury karma.

"I never wanted to be a fireman. I never wanted to be a policeman. I wanted to play baseball. I was meant to play baseball," he said.

Or, he was meant to wait to play baseball.

Segui has learned perseverance in his time back with Baltimore, the team that drafted him, then sent him to the New York Mets in a trade in what would be the start of a baseball odyssey. Yesterday, after proving his hamstring was on the mend, Segui was relieved the Orioles decided to let him stay on the active roster.

Like the gingerbread man, Segui had outrun the disabled list - at least for now, or until this weekend. If he's not ready then, off he may go, again.

"I'm tired of being on the DL. I was sick of it last year. I'm beyond sick of it now. I'm sick of staying in shape. I'm sick of working out four or five hours a day only to come in and get hurt. All these fat guys in the league. How come they never get hurt?" Segui said.

In the sick bay that has become the Orioles' clubhouse, Segui is always Patient Zero. We know his stats all too well. In two seasons back with the Orioles, he played 108 games. This season, Segui has played in exactly half of their 20 games.

Yesterday, he barely got to keep his roster spot. After a scan showed Marty Cordova's elbow had more chips than the Keebler elves, the veteran outfielder was placed on the DL and will stay there through surgery and recovery, six to eight weeks.

Meanwhile, even with the addition of call-up Jose Leon, the Orioles' roster was down to about 22 players. Since 12 are pitchers, the Orioles now sport one of the most anemic benches in the history of baseball. The dugout needs a vitamin B-12 shot, especially in late innings, when Sam Perlozzo has no one to pinch-hit for "sluggers" like Deivi Cruz or Brook Fordyce.

Figure it out. Segui isn't available. Jerry Hairston is now nursing a very stiff and sore ankle and, as it is with Rule 5 players, you're automatically down a man. No offense to young shortstop Jose Morban, but let's hope he turns out to be very good.

It's not Segui's fault that everyone else has decided to join him fighting the injury bug, but the more glaring the Orioles' bare bench is, the more heat he feels.

"I don't want to walk away that easily, and it doesn't make it any easier when you have to read about it in the paper, hear people in the street. `Hey, how come you're hurt again?' " he said.

"I catch more crap here in my own stadium than I do on the road, as if I want to lay on the operating table and get cut on. I think people think we enjoy it, not playing. It wasn't like it was an ingrown toenail that put me on the disabled list. It's not like I don't want to play."

Segui said that his experience is so far-fetched, he can't serve as a role model for teammates who find themselves injured or on the disabled list.

Standing next to Hairston yesterday after the second baseman was scratched from the lineup, Segui said he couldn't offer Hairston any words of wisdom.

"He won't be out as long as me," Segui said, laughing, sort of.

It's a joke what has happened to Segui. Unless you're Segui, who can barely grin and bear it these days, when the Orioles desperately need him.

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