Despite being hit, Segui focuses on gain, not pain

Often-injured Oriole happy to be in lineup

April 05, 2004|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

David Segui had no interest in participating in last year's Opening Day ceremonies for the Orioles, not with his season beginning on the disabled list and more criticism coming from fans who gave up trying to keep track of his injuries.

No wonder last night's festivities meant so much to him - the jog down the orange carpet during introductions, the applause, the realization that he made it through spring training in one piece and was starting against Boston's Pedro Martinez.

Then he got drilled in the back. In his first at-bat. On a night cold enough to make the sting last until tomorrow's breakfast.

What kind of way is this to reward a guy for being healthy? Why not whack him in the knees, too?

The ball slammed into the right half of Segui's No. 23 and he collapsed to the ground with a grimace on his face. Head trainer Richie Bancells popped out of the dugout, but before he could go any further, Segui jumped to his feet and sprinted to first base as if trying to outrun the pain.

Here's where it got interesting.

Segui looked at Martinez, one of his closest friends in baseball from their days together in Montreal, and appeared ready to fling his bat toward the mound. He twirled it in a circular motion, but released the lumber so it skipped in the opposite direction.

"I was just messing with him," Segui said.

Standing at first base, Segui flashed a broad smile at Martinez and touched the bill of his batting helmet. The benches and bullpens didn't empty. Martinez didn't have a Don Zimmer flashback and throw Sam Perlozzo to the ground. Tempers were held, at least for the moment.

"He looked over at me so I smiled back," Segui said. "I know he wasn't trying to hit me. He was trying to come up and in. He usually dusts me a couple times a year."

Segui later scored on a Luis Matos single, giving the Orioles a 3-0 lead against the three-time Cy Young winner. He also doubled leading off the eighth, the ball caroming off first base and rolling into foul territory, but it didn't carry the same intrigue as his earlier encounter with Martinez.

Perhaps Martinez's arm angle wasn't right, something that Segui noted during an exhibition game in Fort Myers, Fla. Segui pointed out the problem as Martinez was walking off the mound, explaining later that he wouldn't dole out any more advice once the season started.

"He dropped it a little on that one [last night]," Segui said. "He's not afraid to pitch inside. He knows I like to dive. He's told me that before."

Martinez's fastball didn't reach 90 mph in the early innings, but Segui said, "He had his great changeup tonight. That's for sure.

"It's hard to gauge on a night like tonight, too, with the wind as well as the cold. The ball gets dry and the pitchers can't get a grip on it," Segui said.

"The media in general has made a big deal over his lack of velocity or whatever. Pedro knows how to pitch. He's not getting any younger, of course. Can he still throw 95? I'd bet my life on it that he could. Is he smart enough to figure out he doesn't need to throw 95 all the time? Probably."

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