Brewers' Jean Segura struggles to find swing

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By Tom Haudricourt and Todd Rosiak
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Wednesday, July 9, 2014

MILWAUKEE--A frustrated Jean Segura talked with Brewers manager Ron Roenicke on Wednesday to discuss possible adjustments to get the young shortstop going at the plate.

After putting together an all-star season in 2013 in his first full year in the majors, Segura has regressed badly at the plate. Entering the third game of the series against Philadelphia on Wednesday at Miller Park, he was hitting .235 with a .270 on-base percentage and .317 slugging percentage.

It has been particularly ugly for Segura, 24, since the start of June. He batted .196 that month with a .239 OBP and .294 slugging percentage. In the first seven games of July, he was 3 for 25 (.120) with a .185 OBP.

“He’s just still inconsistent,” Roenicke said. “I’ll see some really good swings when he’s squaring up balls, but then all of a sudden, he’ll get a 2-0 count and he taps one in front of the plate. We’re trying to get him more consistent.

“He thinks there are some things he can do, mechanically, to help himself out. The hard part is to change things during the season. Physically and mechanically, when you change something, it takes some time to get comfortable with it, and it’s hard to do when you’re fighting and scratching to get hits.”

Anyone would lose confidence after such a lengthy struggle, but younger players are particularly prone to that pitfall. Roenicke has kept an eye on Segura to see if that becomes a larger issue.

“It’s not so much a loss of confidence but more frustration for him right now,” Roenicke said. “It’s kind of the same thing. He’s frustrated. He wants to get it going and start helping us the way he knows he can. He’s done a great job for us defensively, but we need him to hit.”

Players in prolonged slumps often take it out in the field with them, lose focus and become a defensive liability, as well. To his credit, Segura has not done that, playing steady and at times brilliant defense.

“I think he knows how important the defensive part of it is,” Roenicke said. “For him to be out there as much as he is, it’s because of his defense. If we had another guy as good as him defensively, I’d give him more days off just to give him a mental break, but we don’t want him out of that defensive spot.”

Segura’s slide at the plate actually goes back to the second half of last season. After a sensational first half (.325, 11 doubles, 8 triples, 11 home runs, 36 RBI, 27 stolen bases in 92 games) that earned him an all-star berth, he slipped to .241 with a .268 OBP and .315 slugging in the final 54 games.

Because Segura had been playing practically nonstop for two or three years, the Brewers did not let him play winter ball in the Dominican Republic. Whether that absence was a factor in his offensive struggles this season, only Segura knows.

Right-field shuffle

Ryan Braun was out of the lineup for the second consecutive game and third time in four games, still dealing with the lower back spasms that initially cropped up over the weekend in Cincinnati.

While it appeared he might have aggravated his back leaping to try to catch Chase Utley’s home run in the first inning on Monday, Braun said there was no specific incident that caused them to flare up again.

Braun was lifted from that game after doubling in the eighth inning and continues to get treatment.

“It’s very uncomfortable,” he said. “Very difficult to get out of bed, very difficult to walk. Mobility-wise is more challenging than rotational—swinging isn’t as painful as trying to run.”

“Just do my treatment, do the things I can do and hopefully get back as soon as I can.”

With Braun unavailable, the Brewers have been using Logan Schafer in right field. The situation became complicated on Tuesday when Schafer was lifted for pinch-hitter Rickie Weeks in the eighth inning, leaving Roenicke to keep Weeks in the game at second base and shifting Scooter Gennett to right.

Gennett said Wednesday it was the first time he’d played the outfield since high school, and even then he’d never played right.

He borrowed Jeff Bianchi’s glove but ultimately didn’t have any fly balls hit to him.

“It’s kind of fun playing a different position,” he said. “I was excited. If that’s what they want me to do, I better perform. I was wanting someone to pop up to me. I wanted to catch one.”

“But it was fun.”

With Braun missing time with thumb and oblique issues earlier this season, the Brewers have started four other players in right. One of those was infielder Mark Reynolds, who made his first-ever start in the majors there on May 1 in Cincinnati when the team was caught short-handed.

“We’ve talked about it for a while,” said Roenicke of trying Gennett in right. “When we had a four-man bench, there were a few games that came up so we had conversations with him about it. Left field was more of a need during that time.”

He’s been an outfielder when he was younger.

Lucroy gets rest

Catcher Jonathan Lucroy, who has been the Brewers’ most consistent offensive performer throughout the season, had some at-bats Tuesday that looked “a little bit different” to Roenicke. Accordingly, Lucroy was out of the starting lineup Wednesday.

“He needs a day off,” Roenicke said. “He has caught a lot. He has played at a really high level. We’re trying to get him to continue to do that. Yesterday, his at-bats were a little bit different, and behind the plate he might have been a little different. Wily (Peralta) can make it tough on you, throwing that good stuff and all over.

“Hopefully, this little bit of a rest (will help). Again, he’s available off the bench. It’s nice when you can pull a guy off the bench in any situation and you can pick when you do it.”

Lucroy, who has started 75 games behind the plate, has played six games at first base, which saves him from the rigors of catching so many innings. But Roenicke said he didn’t consider that move this time.

“We felt he needed a day,” Roenicke said. “We’ll always consider putting him at first because we like him in the lineup, but we thought, physically and mentally, he needed a full day.”

Having been selected for the National League all-star team on the player ballot, Lucroy will not get rest at the break. Not that a first-time all-star would prefer the rest over the prestige of going to Minnesota's Target Field with the best players in the game.

“I’ve been pretty fortunate that I bounce back pretty quick,” Lucroy said. “My body’s always been able to do that. I try to take care of myself the best I can. I’m not really worried about it too much. I’m still 28, so I feel like I can still kick it around.”

“He’s good at catching fly balls and I thought he’d be a good guy to do it with.”

Last updated: 11:49 pm Wednesday, July 9, 2014

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