GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) Corey Seager, the unanimous pick for NL Rookie of the Year in 2016, begins his second season as the Dodgers’ shortstop confronted by one daunting question.
What can he do for an encore?
There is no simple answer. Perhaps, there’s no answer at all. Great rookie seasons are often followed by the so-called sophomore slump. But Seager isn’t listening to the clamor for an encore, or suggestions that he will struggle in 2017.
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”He eliminates the noise,” said Dodgers manager Dave Roberts, who sees a young player not easily distracted from the immediate task.
At spring training, that amounts to detail. One in particular. Seager told Roberts that he didn’t have his best swing last season, despite a .308 batting average and 26 home runs.
”It wasn’t exactly what I wanted,” Seager said Thursday. ”Mechanically, I could have been better. I wasn’t uncomfortable. I just wasn’t 100 percent.”
Seager at his optimum best is something Roberts calls ”scary” – as in scary good. But Roberts foresees Seager improving, year to year, at a steady and almost deliberate pace.
”I think that he is always trying to get better as a player,” Roberts said. ”That’s what any player’s goal is, of course. For me, what he did was exceptional. Whether a player doesn’t have his `A’ swing or doesn’t feel great, Corey still goes out and competes. That’s the thing that separates Corey from a lot of players. He goes out there and tries to put his best bat out there every night and every time he steps in the box. That’s why he is productive.”
Seager said he continues to learn from veteran infielder Chase Utley, whom the Dodgers signed to a one-year deal on Feb. 18. Utley has become Seager’s mentor.
”Just his presence brings a lot into the clubhouse,” said Seager, whose locker is next to Utley’s at the Dodgers’ Camelback Ranch complex. ”He’s been there. He’s done it all. Just having that kind of presence is definitely a positive.”
After just a couple of weeks of camp, it’s evident that Seager is becoming a presence in his own right. He looms as a key to the Dodgers’ pursuit of a World Series.
In the wake of last year’s loss to the Chicago Cubs in the NL Championship Series, the World Series might be the only goal.
”Yeah, it has to be,” he said. ”That’s always got be the mindset. The goal at the beginning of a season is always to win a World Series. If you don’t, it’s a disappointment. Last year was a disappointment. It was a good year, but still a disappointment to lose. You never want a season to end that way.”
NOTES: Julio Urias was impressive in pitching two innings of batting practice Thursday to Justin Turner, Joc Pederson, Yasmani Grandal and Seager, The 20-year-old left-hander from Mexico limited them to grounders and pop-ups. … Clayton Kershaw, who will make his seventh successive Opening Day start on April 3, will start the exhibition opener Saturday against the Chicago White Sox at Camelback Ranch. Roberts said he would work one inning.