CLEARWATER, Fla. — Jean Segura showed up at spring training looking like he stole Lou Ferrigno’s quads.
He’s squatting 400 pounds, 100 more than last season. He’s running sprints like he’s training for the Olympics. He’s eating leafy greens like a bunny rabbit, and his antioxidant levels are so high that his free radicals just packed up and left. He quit liquor for good in October, he’s avoided between-meal snacks since the holidays, and he looks younger than he did when the Phillies traded for him in 2019 to bat in front of Bryce Harper.
He’s done well. His combined batting average in the last three seasons is .282, best on the team. He can do more. He’s 32. He’s running out of time.
No active player has played more games than Segura’s 1,230 without reaching the playoffs. Neither he nor the Phillies have played in the postseason since he debuted in 2012, but no one is more motivated than Segura.
“He looks awesome. He knows that he’s one of the players in the league with the most games played without being in a playoff game,” said Rhys Hoskins. “He comes in, looking the way he does. His energy’s been off the charts. You can see physically, you can see mentally — there’s just a different gear.”
Segura has told his teammates he wants to play 155 games this season; nagging injuries limited him to an average of 136 games the last four full seasons. And no, he doesn’t care what role he plays.
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On Thursday, the first time Joe Girardi used his projected starting lineup, he dropped Segura from No. 2 spot, his preferred spot, to No. 7. Girardi knew there might be an issue. “I talked to him,” Girardi said before the game. “I said, ‘This is not necessarily what it’s going to be.’”
There was no issue. Segura homered in his first at-bat. It was his first spring training home run in four springs with the Phils.
Do your job
“As a player, you have to go and do your job. It doesn’t matter where you hit,” Segura said. “Today, I went and did my job.”
The old Jean Segura figured his job was to hit at the top of the order.
“Yes, I want to hit second, but if the manager thinks putting somebody else there benefits the team, I’m here for that,” Segura told me Wednesday as he strode away from batting practice. “I work for the Philadelphia Phillies. I don’t work for Jean Segura.”
This is Jean Segura?
“This team is really built to win a championship, not just get to the playoffs,” Segura said. “I don’t want to let this opportunity go by.”
This is not the old Jean Segura.
The old Jean Segura dogged it out of the batter’s box in 2019, which resulted in Andrew McCutchen getting caught in a rundown, during which McCutchen shredded his knee. The old Jean Segura, in 2021, botched a deke play in the field that led to a dugout blowup with Girardi. The old Jean Segura would never have spent two hours after exiting Thursday’s game working out and seeking physical therapy.
He’s tried to improve himself in the past, but never to this degree.
“I should have done this earlier in my career, so I wouldn’t have to work so hard right now,” Segura said. “When you put bad diesel in the car, it’s gonna run slow.”
How well Segura runs at the bottom of the order remains to be seen. In his 10 seasons he’s at .292 when hitting first, second, or third. He’s at .267 in the other six slots.
Segura’s carrying 226 pounds on a 5-foot-10 frame. He looks more like a running back than a second baseman.
“He’s really strong,” said Girardi, himself a slave to the weight room. “We always joke with him: If he’d grown up in Texas, he’d have been a football player.”
Independent of his playoff exclusion, this rededication to fitness makes sense from another angle. He can be a free agent at the end of this season. Thirty-something ballplayers generally find workout religion right about the time their contract expires.
Not so, Segura insisted.
“I’m working harder than any year in the past because team deserves it,” Segura said. And what does he deserve?
The Phillies hold a $17 million option for Segura’s services in 2023, or they owe him a $1 million buyout. He’ll make $14.25 million this season, which will give him at least $73 million for 11 seasons. So, yeah, he can afford lots more jewelry like the $2,000 diamond flower studs he bought on the three-day vacation he took with his wife to Puerto Rico in November.
But no, it isn’t about the ducats, or the diamonds. It’s about winning. Segura has played for five teams, and has got a few more good years, but he’s probably going to be too expensive for the Phillies in 2023. Who knows where he’ll land next season? This might be his best chance at a ring.
“I want to give everything I have to this team,” Segura said. Even if that means losing at-bats in a year that will influence his last big payday. “If you think about the contract, you forget you have to play the game.”