CLEARWATER, Fla. — Phillies infielder Jean Segura bared his soul a little before Monday's first full-squad workout at Camp Clearwater.
He talked about the mental effect that his connection to teammate Andrew McCutchen's season-ending knee issue had on him last year. He talked about the difficulties that moving around the batting order around caused him. He talked about giving up whiskey and eating better this winter, about losing 14 pounds, all in hopes of having a better season in 2020.
"I have to enjoy what I do," a noticeably trimmer Segura said. "I think last year, I didn't do it too much because there was a lot of stress — Cutch went down, you know, a lot of situation going on with the lineup, you know, I'm hitting four, I never hit four in my life. So, there were a lot of things going on in the season that sometimes affect players."
Segura hit .280 with a .743 OPS last season, significant drops from the marks of .308 and .803 he'd averaged the previous three seasons.
His work at shortstop also slipped as he went from a plus-5 to a minus-5 in defensive runs saved, according to Fangraphs.
Declines like these might lead a front office to consider moving on from a player, but the Phillies figure to have Segura for a while as they owe him $45 million through 2022.
The Phils will look for ways to get more out of Segura this season and one of them is a position change. With newcomer Didi Gregorius taking over at shortstop, Segura figures to open the season at second base, a position he thrived at for Arizona in 2016. Segura will get some looks at third base during spring training, but he's never played there and when the curtain goes up on the regular season, he will likely be at second with Scott Kingery at third.
Segura, who turns 30 next month, said he was not slighted by the addition of Gregorius.
"We added another good player," he said. "As a professional baseball player, I have to understand what's best for the team, what's best for the organization. Whatever they want me to do, I'll do it. I just want to play and have fun."
Segura had a lot of fun the first two months of last season. He ended May hitting .301 with an .809 OPS.
On June 3, in the first inning of a game at San Diego, the good vibes that Segura had been feeling went away when McCutchen went down with a season-ending ACL tear in his left knee. McCutchen blew out the knee in a rundown that resulted from Segura's not running out an infield popup.
McCutchen's injury was a huge loss for the Phillies. At the time, he had the second-best on-base percentage (.378) of any leadoff man in the majors. After the injury, Phillies leadoff men recorded at .295 on-base percentage, second worst in the majors, over the remainder of the season.
Though McCutchen absolved his teammate of any blame — and continues to do so — Segura was and still is bothered by the incident.
"It was frustrating for me," he said. "We were hot. I was hot. And when that happened because I didn't hustle down the line, a lot of people judged me for that. A lot of people didn't, but at the end of the day, it's what I think and I think I didn't hustle. I don't think it was my fault. He got hurt maybe because that day he was going to get hurt. At the end of the day, people looked at it like it was my fault, but it's a baseball game and you can't control a baseball game.
"But at the end of the day it affected my mentality because one of my teammates went down because I didn't run down the line. I thought about it a lot through the season. My body, my energy level went down. I was kind of frustrated about it because at that time he was hot, he was leading off and I was hitting second. It was like a two-punch right away and when you don't see that two-punch right away when we start a game, it's tough."
Segura spent the winter getting in better physical shape and he believes it will help him.
"You can put 14 pounds on your shoulder and go running and you'll feel how heavy it is when you get tired," he said. "That happens sometimes when you're overweight and you play shortstop and you stress a lot."
His off-season fitness program included eating better, sleeping more and giving up whiskey. He still might have an occasional glass of wine with his wife, but no more whiskey.
"I think everybody in this sport drinks whiskey and now I'm not drinking anymore," he said. "Now I feel pretty good. I feel excited and ready to go."