Segura learning to counter pitchers' adjustments

Segura learning to counter pitchers' adjustments

CHICAGO -- Jean Segura set the bar pretty high in his first full Major League season. Milwaukee's dazzling young shortstop hit .294 with 12 homers, 49 RBIs and 44 steals en route to National League All-Star honors in 2013.

Life in 2014 hasn't been quite so easy. Through 38 games, Segura had a slash line of .261/.291/.352, and he was 8-for-14 in stolen base attempts. His bread and butter is hitting up the middle the other way, and as a consequence, pitchers have started to jam Segura inside.

"Last year was amazing, and that's going to come," Segura said. "[Pitchers] aren't stupid. They know where to find the spot that I cannot hit it, so they're not pitching me the same as they did last year. I need to make that adjustment back, because if not, they're going to screw me up all season long. ... You need to let pitchers know that you're ready for the inside pitch and turn it over to left field."

Segura understands that the game within the game -- the battle of adjustments between pitchers and hitters -- comes with the territory. As a young player, he's still learning how to master the chess match.

"Exactly, man. It's tough," Segura said. "First year, they don't know you, they say, 'OK, let's go get this guy.' And when you're a good hitter, an aggressive hitter, you take advantage of that.

When the time passes ... they know, 'This guy likes to hit the ball the other way, let's go pitch him in, throw in the dirt,' whatever, they make that adjustment. You need to punch back."

Segura's performance Friday provided some encouraging signs. He had three singles, the first two up the middle and the third to left field. Manager Ron Roenicke echoed Segura's sentiment that the shortstop has to be able to cover the inside part of the plate.

"If he's more disciplined, the times he gets himself out, they're balls off the plate," Roenicke said. "He has to be more disciplined inside. If you look at the best players in baseball right now, usually the only place you can get them out is inside.

"If you're a bad hitter, you won't hit away and you won't hit offspeed stuff. That's exactly what I didn't hit. You see it. You know right away that this guy is a good hitter and you know he can handle away. That's the difference. When Seggy is going all over the field, that's when he's good."

Some of Segura's slow start -- the word "slow" used because of the lofty expectations he created with his exciting arrival to the big leagues -- could be because he didn't play at all in the offseason.

Segura had become accustomed to playing winter ball in the Dominican Republic, where he won the battling title in the 2012 offseason, but he rested this past offseason at the Brewers' request. He had more than 600 plate appearances last season and he strained his left hamstring in September.

Segura said he'd like to play at least some winter ball this offseason to bridge the gap in between the end of the season and Spring Training.

"We'll see, we'll see," Segura said. "I'd prefer to play at least one month, just keep ready until Spring Training. Maybe 100 at-bats, maybe something like that to keep in shape because there's a lot of time off. Season's over in September or October, however far we can go, and you know five months off is a lot. It's a lot of time off for the guys, who's 24, 22. We'll see."

Joe Popely is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.