Mariners SS Jean Segura: ‘I can’t repay’ Robinson Cano for personal, professional kindness
Jean Segura has reached the highest highs and lowest lows along his path to being one of baseball’s top shortstops, and the first-year Mariner credits the friendship and tutelage of teammate Robinson Cano as helping bring him from the brink.
Segura told “Danny, Dave and Moore” on Friday that Cano has been “everything” to him while helping him over the last two years. He called Cano one of the best people he’s ever met.
“I can’t repay what this guy (did for) me and my family,” Segura said.
The Mariners acquired Segura as part of a blockbuster trade this offseason that sent promising young pitcher Taijuan Walker and shortstop Ketel Marte to the Diamondbacks in return for Segura, outfielder Mitch Haniger and lefty Zac Curtis. That allowed him the chance to form a double-play combo with Cano, a fellow Dominican whom Segura not only idolized but had become friends with in recent years.
Though Segura is only 27, he’s already been through a lot in his pro baseball career.
He signed with the Angels as an international free agent from the Dominican Republic in 2007 and quickly became one of the top prospects in a crowded farm system. In 2012, Anaheim’s general manager at the time, Jerry Dipoto, shipped Segura to Milwaukee, where he made an immediate impact.
Segura made the All-Star team as the Brewers’ starting shortstop in 2013 but his production dipped after that. Part of that slide came after a scary incident in April 2014 when teammate Ryan Braun inadvertently hit Segura in the head while taking practice swings in the dugout.
A gash near Segura’s eye required stitches, and he said Friday that the incident almost ended his career.
“It was difficult,” Segura said. “The doctor told me, ‘You’re lucky. If it was a little bit deeper, you shouldn’t play baseball anymore.’ … So I thank God for the opportunity to be able to play baseball again.”
But being hit in the head was nothing compared to the tragedy that followed. On July 11, 2014, Segura found out his 9-month-old son Janniel had fallen ill and died suddenly in the Dominican. Segura returned to baseball after a week of grieving. He said there were “so many problems team-wise, personal-wise. I was a completely different kind of player.”
“My first year, I make my first All-Star game, a lot of people want me,” Segura added. “The last couple years, I was dealing with family problems … and nobody wanted me around.”
The Brewers traded Segura to the Diamondbacks in 2016. Along the way, Segura reached out through a mutual friend to Cano. Segura said he texted Cano: “Hey, Robbie, can you help me? Can I work with you?”
“He said, ‘Yeah, no problem, come hang out and we’ll work out together,'” Segura recalled.
He said Cano’s advice was about life as well as baseball.
Cano wasn’t the only person Segura took offseason advice from. He worked with a hitting coach about lowering his hands at the plate before the 2016 season with Arizona, and while the results were “horrendous” at first, he kept working at it. At the end of the year, Segura led the National League in hits, posting a .319 batting average, with 33 stolen bases, 20 home runs and 64 RBIs.
Despite spending 12 days on the disabled list with a hamstring injury, Segura has continued his stellar production in his first season with the Mariners. He has a .368/.409/.617 slash line in 94 plate appearances with three home runs and five stolen bases.
Segura said he has enjoyed the city and teammates – and even likes hitting in notoriously pitcher-friendly Safeco Field.
“I like those gappers. It’s big enough to get to second base and third base,” Segura said. “… If you’re a strong guy, hit your homers. If you’re a guy who has to get on base, get on base. I’m one of those guys that I don’t look too much to hit homers. If I hit it, fine, (I’m) happy. If (I don’t) … I just try to (make) some solid contact, get on base and score some runs, steal some bases.”
Segura said he has also transformed from a guy who used to break his bat and throw his helmet during struggles to keeping a more even-keeled approach to the game. It’s just another thing he learned from Cano, who is well-known for his always-cool personality.
“He’s a professional baseball player,” Segura said. “He’s a professional man, too.”