After nightmarish 2014, ‘it is a new year’ for stronger Segura

Brewers shortstop Jean Segura hit .246 with five home runs, 31 RBI and 20 stolen bases last season.

Rick Scuteri/Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports

PHOENIX — On the surface, Jean Segura appears to be in a much better place than he was at any point during his nightmarish second season in the big leagues.

His down season on the field paled in comparison to the emotional struggle he went through after his infant son passed away in July. But after an offseason in which he got married and became a father again, Segura is ready to put 2014 behind him.

"I feel stronger," Segura said. "I am never going to forget my son, but life is going to continue to move on. God gave me another child. He has control of everything I’m doing right now. It is a new year. I’m prepared for this one."

Segura’s tumultuous season began with the young shortstop turning down a six-year, $38 million contract extension offer from the Brewers during spring training.

Then on April 26, Segura was walking through the Miller Park dugout prior to the bottom of the first inning of a game against the Chicago Cubs when he was inadvertently struck in the face by a Ryan Braun warmup swing.

The wound required multiple stitches and left a very visible scar under Segura’s right eye.

Following Milwaukee’s 7-6 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals on July 11, Segura returned to the clubhouse unaware of the tragic event that had occurred in the Dominican Republic. Segura’s mother, Ana Maribel, was the first to learn of the news.

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She passed word to one of the players’ wives, who then told Segura his nine-month-old son, Janniel, had died.

"It was just tough for me," Segura said. "Not many players can get through what I went through last year. I got struck in the face. I lost my son in the middle of the season. It was a tough season for me. I think did a good job at the end of finishing strong and getting through those tough things. I don’t think everybody could have handled it like I did."

Segura was hitting .274 on May 30 before a 24-for-139 (.173) stretch lowered his batting average to .232 at the All-Star break. A strong September (.319 with four stolen bases) brought Segura’s final numbers to .246 with five home runs, 31 RBI and 20 stolen bases.

He began last season in the No. 2 spot of Milwaukee’s lineup but wound up hitting eighth for most of the second half.

"There’s not much you can do offensively hitting in that spot of the lineup," Segura said. "You have the pitcher behind you. They are not stupid. They aren’t going to make a mistake with you with the pitcher behind you.

"You have an out behind you. Part of my game is running. I love running. I love to steal bases. I think when you are hitting ahead of the pitcher you can’t run. If you get on base, he’s bunting. If you get on base with two outs you aren’t going to run because you don’t want him to be first up the next inning."

Segura understands he will begin this season hitting eighth, but his goal is to force manager Ron Roenicke to move him up.

One of the many questions facing the Brewers is which version of Segura will show up. Will it be the dynamic shortstop that hit .325 with 11 home runs and 27 stolen bases in the first half of 2013 or last year’s punchless version?

Segura will have an increased support system with him this season, as his father, Carlos, is currently living with him at spring training. His wife, Kellen, recently gave birth to a son named Juan Diego.

"We saw how great he started, the energy and the smile on his face," Roenicke said. "We need that back. Everybody needs to have that look where they are enjoying what they are doing and are confident. Last year was a rough year for him in all areas. He’s an important part of what we do."

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If Segura falters, the Brewers have plenty of potential options at shortstop. Milwaukee acquired 21-year-old Luis Sardinas in the Yovani Gallardo trade, while prospect Yadiel Rivera could begin the season in Triple-A.

Four of MLB.com’s top-30 prospects in the Brewers system currently play shortstop — Orlando Arcia (No. 1 overall), Jake Gatewood (No. 5 overall), Gilbert Lara (No. 6 overall) and Rivera (No. 23 overall).

Gatewood and Lara could grow out of the position by the time they are big-league ready, but Rivera, Sardinas and Arcia all could push Segura in the coming years.

"I’m not going to say (I need to) get back to where I was two years ago," Segura said. "I don’t want to put pressure on myself to do what I did two years ago. Two years ago is over. Last year is over to. It is a new year for me. I’ll be prepared for everything to do my job to do everything to make me a better player."

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