Segura thrilled to play alongside friend Cano

Mariners' new middle-infield partners have been tight for years

Segura thrilled to play alongside friend Cano

SEATTLE -- When Jean Segura had a huge bounceback season for the D-backs last year, one of the people he credited for his success was Mariners second baseman Robinson Cano, who had reached out to his Dominican neighbor and provided counsel and comradery after Segura struggled following the death of his 9-month-old son in 2014.

So there is a reason Segura is beaming since he was acquired by Seattle as the key piece in a five-player trade that sent Taijuan Walker to Arizona in November. For the past two offseasons, Segura and Cano have been constant companions in the Dominican, and now they'll carry that friendship over to the regular season in what figures to be a terrific middle-infield combination.

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Segura was a National League All-Star with the Brewers as a 23-year-old in 2013, but life got harder the following season. He was hit in the face by teammate Ryan Braun's bat early that year in a dugout accident, then saw his life shattered in July when his son, Janniel, died of a sudden illness.

After another down year in 2015, Milwaukee dealt him to the D-backs, and a renewed Segura put together an outstanding season in which he led the NL with 203 hits while batting .319 with 20 home runs and 33 stolen bases and finished 13th in NL MVP Award voting.

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There's no guarantee Segura can duplicate those offensive numbers in a much-tougher hitting environment for right-handed hitters at Safeco Field, but there is reason to think the youngster could again flourish as he continues moving forward and is teamed now with Cano.

Making his first Mariners appearance at the team's FanFest on Saturday, Segura acknowledged that getting his mind right was a big part of his 2016 success.

"Better mentality," he said of the turnaround. "I think you guys know what I've been through my last couple years. I lost my son. I got hit in the face by Ryan Braun. There were a lot of problems, a lot of family issues. But last year I was a new player. It was a new me.

"I thank Robbie for helping me to keep doing what I do in the field. I always talk to him about it, how I can be a better player, how I can be better on and off the field. Thank God I made those little adjustments, offseason hitting-wise, and it worked."

How much time have Segura and Cano spent together in the Dominican this winter?

"A lot of time," Segura said with a smile. "We work together, we practice together. We are at his place every day in the offseason. He's a great ballplayer and great person. He's good with me and everybody there, trying to help us be better people and players.

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"It's something special because you're talking about a future Hall of Famer. He's one of the great players in baseball. To be working next to a guy like Robbie is something special."

The two have already been practicing double-play feeds and things in the Dominican, but have never played together in a game. So what will it be like to line up alongside Cano in the field?

"I think it's going to be one of the best moments in my life," Segura said.

Segura played second base last season for the D-backs, but will move back to his natural position. He has no doubt that will work out well for him and the Mariners.

"It's great," he said. "I've waited for that moment. Last year, the only choice I had was to play second base and as a professional baseball player, you do what you have to do. But I'm a shortstop. I came to the big leagues as a shortstop. I'd played almost four years at shortstop. It's going to be more fun going back to my normal position."

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Manager Scott Servais expects Segura to solidify that spot after Ketel Marte ranked near the bottom of the league in defensive metrics last year. He also welcomes the speed of Segura, who likely will either hit second behind Jarrod Dyson or slide up to the leadoff role when Seattle faces left-handed starters.

"As a right-handed hitter, he hit more balls to the opposite field than anybody else in the league last year," Servais said. "He uses the entire field to hit. He's got power. He brings a lot. Also the fact that he is so tight with Robbie, it's going to be neat to watch. I'm really excited to have him on board."

That feeling is mutual. Segura has talked at length to Cano about the positives of playing in Seattle and is eager to begin his new baseball chapter.

"He told me I'm going to be in a great place," Segura said. "He said this year will be more fun because of how Seattle plays, how the clubhouse is and how the guys treat each other. I believe it when he tells me something.

"I'm telling you right now, I just can't wait to get our season started."

Greg Johns has covered the Mariners since 1997, and for since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.