PHOENIX -- This off-season was a whole new experience for Jean Segura.
Despite being just 23 years old and one of the Milwaukee Brewers' most energetic players, he was asked by the team not to play in the Dominican Winter League as he had every year since 2009.
Segura complied. He admitted he wore down considerably in the second half of what was otherwise a breakout 2013, but he reported to spring training earlier this week in Maryvale rejuvenated and ready to go.
"I feel better," Segura said. "I feel fresh."
For the Brewers to get to where they want to go this season -- back into the National League playoffs -- they're going to need the productive and disruptive version of Segura that hit and ran his way in the first half of 2013 to the All-Star Game in his first turn as Milwaukee's starting shortstop.
"I'm hoping what we saw the first half, we see the whole year," manager Ron Roenicke said. "If we do that, we've got a great player."
All told, Segura hit .294 with 12 home runs, 49 RBI and 44 stolen bases over 146 games. He legged out a National League- and franchise-best 44 infield hits, flashed unexpected power to all fields and was a handful for opposing pitchers and catchers as he finished second in the NL in stolen bases.
His numbers fell off precipitously down the stretch. A strained right hamstring held him out of 10 of the Brewers' 11 final games. Segura hit .281 in July, .252 in August and .214 in September, and homered only once after June 21 with just 14 extra-base hits over his last 67 games.
Segura, who had played just one game above Class AA when the Brewers acquired him from the Angels in a trade for Zack Greinke in July 2012, had clearly hit the wall. But he wanted to make clear in an interview earlier this week that he wasn't using fatigue as an excuse for his overall drop in play.
"I think everybody knows that," Segura said when asked if he tired out down the stretch. "I did struggle in the second half, but I don't want to give that excuse. I want to do the right thing all the time, and sometimes it doesn't happen.
"But I don't want people to think I'm saying, 'Oh, I'm struggling because I'm tired.' I'm struggling because I'm struggling."
In the off-season Segura found ways to be productive in his native Dominican Republic, like working out with his uncle and trainer while also taking time to recharge his battery. He won the batting title with Cibao in the Dominican Winter League in 2012 by hitting .324 in 35 games, and he admitted it was difficult not returning to play for a fourth consecutive year.
"It's tough, you know," said Segura, who still lives with his parents in his hometown of San Juan. "When you (spend) three months at home, and don't play, you feel like you need to play. But I think, 'I need that. I need that time off.' And we worked hard, man, I didn't sit down at home and watch TV. I worked.
"I believe the guys that work hard, at some point in their career they're going to get success. I always work. I never take anything for granted."
Segura hit .297 in the 120 games he batted second in 2013, but he's the likely choice to slide up into the leadoff spot with Norichika Aoki having been traded last December. With his speed, bunting skills ability and ability to hit the ball to right field, the move would make sense.
Segura is a naturally aggressive hitter who doesn't walk much (just 25 walks in 623 plate appearances), so he'll need to once again be around that .300 average for the Brewers to benefit with him leading off.
He was a .333 hitter when swinging at the first pitch compared to .281 when he didn't. His on-base percentage last season was .329.
"He's a guy that swings," conceded manager Ron Roenicke. "So, he's going to have to hit for the batting average. He's already shown he can hit in the big leagues. He can really drive the ball, too. I think somewhere down the road this guy is going to drive in a lot of runs."
Segura also played well defensively despite checking in at a stocky 5 feet 10 inches and 204 pounds, which isn't exactly the physical blueprint for a major-league shortstop. His range measured out well and his fielding percentage was in the middle of the pack in the NL.
"Defensively, this guy can really play," Roenicke said. "He has great range. He has a great arm and it's really quick. When he gets the ball, it's not this long stroke to throw it. It's right here and he's really got something on it.
"I expect him to be a really good major-league defensive shortstop for a long time."
Considering Segura's age and overall skill set, it doesn't come as much of a surprise to hear rumblings that the Brewers would be interested in signing him to a long-term contract extension that would buy out some of his arbitration or even free-agent years.
Setting a market for such a deal would be tough, though. And Segura, for his part, is maintaining the same stance on the topic he has since it first cropped up last May.
"I don't hear anything about it. I don't want to push that," he said. "Coming into the season, people talk of agents, GMs, whatever. I don't want to put that thing ahead. I just want to get here, play baseball. Focus on my game.
"I don't really care about the talk."
While the details and timing of a possible extension don't much matter to him, Segura made it clear he's happy with Milwaukee.
"I love the team; I love the people in Milwaukee," he said. "I love the plans of the team for me and my career so far. I love it here. I wish to be here a long time."
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