MILWAUKEE — On the field and in his personal life, Jean Segura has had a year to forget.
The young shortstop of the Milwaukee Brewers has found a way to soldier on despite his nine-month-old son passing away in July, but his struggles at the plate have carried over from the second half of last season.
Combine the mental hurdle of such a tragic personal loss with trying to navigate through a lack of baseball success, and Segura’s frustrations may be getting the best of him. At least that’s how his manager saw it this weekend.
Despite hitting just .233, Segura has played very good defense at shortstop for the Brewers. That’s why the two careless errors he committed Friday night raised eyebrows. Brewers manager Ron Roenicke decided to give the 24-year-old the night off Saturday to hopefully allow Segura to take a mental break.
"I wouldn’t bench a guy because of one (bad) game," Roenicke said. "Sometimes just the mental part of it, he needs to be in there more with energy. I told him that when I thought I was seeing a little bit something different in him that I was going to give him a day off."
Segura’s day off Saturday became short-lived when Roenicke needed to take Elian Herrera out of the game on a double switch in an effort to get multiple innings out of long reliever Marco Estrada. Herrera was back in the lineup Sunday, as Segura got the entire afternoon off.
Since hitting .325 with 11 home runs, 11 doubles, eight triples, 36 RBI and 27 stolen bases in the first half of 2013 to make the National League All-Star team, Segura is hitting just .236 with nine home runs and 41 RBI over his next 171 games.
Segura appeared to be turning things around this May, hitting .288 for the month. But he had a batting average below .200 in both June and July and has a .271 on-base percentage to go along with his .233 batting average.
"He’s disappointed in what he is doing offensively," Roenicke said. "Although we need him to play the way he’s capable, he’s a plus defender. We really need him out there when everything is right — he’s thinking right and has the energy. That’s part of what I’m going to have to look at and see where we are with him. Offensively he’s scuffling, so he needs to go out there and pick it for us."
Baseball was put into perspective for everyone in Milwaukee’s clubhouse when Segura learned of the passing of his infant son following a game at Miller Park in July. He left the team to return home to the Dominican Republic but rejoined the club in Washington immediately after the All-Star break.
There were obvious concerns whether a 24-year-old could put such a tragic event behind him and play at the big-league level, but Roenicke has kept a close watch on how Segura’s emotions have been on and off the field.
"He’s not a guy that is going to come in and let me know. I always go to him," Roenicke said. "Not necessarily always in my office, but I’ll go talk to him in the field and see how he’s doing. He’s been honest, so I expect him to continue doing that.
"I talked to him the other day. He said everything is fine. He’s going to go through some times when he’s kind of a little moody, which you understand. It’s hard. He’s not playing as well as he thinks he should. I told him when I see things that I will give him a day."
While it is hard to say Segura is ever consistently going to be the player he was when he burst onto the scene with an unbelievable first half in 2013, it is also unfair to write him off at just 24 years old after one season of struggle.
But it is fair to raise the question as to what type of offensive player the Brewers have for the future, as Segura’s defense should continue to be a strength.
"It is hard to say where he is going to be the next few years," Roenicke said. "But he’s better than what he has shown this year, defensively and offensively. I think it has been a tough year for him. They talk about the second year is always tough, well we are seeing it with him. Hopefully he bounces back here and we start seeing the guy that we think is going to be really good at shortstop for a long time."
Segura may push the Brewers to allow him to play winter ball in the Dominican Republic this offseason, after the club preferred he take time off last winter after what was the longest season of his professional career.
Roenicke said Segura believes he can make a couple of mechanical adjustments to help his swing, but it is impossible to try and make major changes to a swing while in the middle of a big-league season.
While Herrera has turned into a solid reserve, Milwaukee is undoubtedly a better team when Segura is playing like he is capable defensively at shortstop. Now the Brewers need any kind of lift from him at the plate.
"We need him to pick up his game," Roenicke said. "That’s what we need him to do."