There’s more to Justin Sellers than what meets the eye

Sellers has versatility at second base and shortstop but he also can play the outfield.

Mark Duncan/AP

GOODYEAR, Ariz. — When you approach a guy who has the nickname of "SellBlock" and one of the more intriguing collections of tattoos in baseball, you would expect Justin Sellers to project as much warmth as James Harrison around an NFL Films crew.

And that is why perceptions and reality often are not the same.

Sellers, who was acquired by the Indians from the Dodgers on March 2, isn’t menacing at all. In fact, he’s extremely engaging. Everyone has unique hobbies. Sellers’ just happens to be tattoos. He got his first one when he was 17 and a junior in high school in Huntington Beach, Calif. He had his name tattooed across his stomach.

"From there one led to another," he said.

All of Sellers’ tattoos tell a story. His right arm has symbols expressing his faith and love of family along with perseverance. The left arm is about temptation and the road he wants to avoid. Think of it as artistic expression of virtue on one side and vice on the other.

Sellers is making an impression this spring, and not just with his tattoos.

During Friday’s game against the White Sox, Indians radio announcer Tom Hamilton wondered if Sellers has room to add any more? There still is some space available on his back and on his legs.

Sellers has considered adding tattoos on his neck, but said that is a couple years off.

When asked if he has a favorite tattoo, Sellers said he didn’t because all of them have meaning. He once sat eight-plus hours as there was one done near his rib cage, which is the one he said gave him the most pain.

Even some of Sellers’ past teammates quite didn’t know what to think of Sellers. Prentice Redman was the one who gave him the "SellBlock" nickname. Since then it has stuck.

Another thing that has stuck with Sellers has been that he is a great fielder but an average hitter. In 82 major-league games, Sellers has a .199 average. When he made his debut with the Dodgers in 2011, he had a .278 average in his first 16 games.

Last season, Sellers was the Dodgers’ opening day shortstop when Hanley Ramirez was on the disabled list. But Sellers hit just .188 in 27 games and spent the rest of the season in Triple-A Albuquerque.

This past offseason, Sellers worked with Dodgers hitting coach Mark McGwire on changing his approach. The two worked once a week at Adam Kennedy’s facility in Anaheim.

"We worked on my approach, my hitting, my game plan and my consistency," Sellers said. "We just simplified it and so far it has been working for me."

The main thing Sellers wants to do is hit the ball lower and get more hits on drives. Sellers is batting .500 so far with three of his eight hits being doubles. He went 1 for 3 in Saturday’s 4-2 loss to the Diamondbacks but it was a line drive single to right-center.

"He’s swinging the bat great. I don’t want to say it’s a surprise because I think it is disrespectful but he was sitting for nine days," said manager Terry Francona of Sellers. "That’s why hitting you can’t bottle it."

Where Sellers fits into the Indians plans remains to be seen. He has versatility at second base and shortstop but he also can play the outfield. He could start the year in Triple-A Columbus since he has two options remaining.

"Whether it is hitting defense and put together a quality at-bat, I’m working as hard as I can and trying to make the roster," Sellers said.