He didn’t want to make a big deal of it at the time. It was just a few days into spring training in Arizona, and Kyle Seager just wanted to get to work and start preparing for the 2019 season.
As Seager talked about the changes he made to his thinking, his diet, his workouts and what it meant for his performance, there was a sense of pride, accomplishment and optimism in his voice. Perhaps this would help him return to his All-Star and Gold Glove-level form of 2014.
Unfortunately, he was never really given a legitimate opportunity to see how all that offseason work would help him through the course of an entire season.
And now, with 48 games remaining in the 2019 season, Seager can only try to salvage what is left and hope it brings the promise of something more in the future.
“I’d like to continue to do what I’ve been doing with my swing stuff recently and keep up on that,” he said. “It’s hard to chase numbers. You could make a great swing and end up flying out. So there is nothing you can really do there. But if you stay in good position and swing at strikes, it will all work out.”
On March 8, Seager’s spring training came to an abrupt end when he dived awkwardly for a Javier Baez ground ball in a Cactus League game at Peoria Stadium. He rolled awkwardly over his glove hand and felt a pop near his middle finger. An MRI would later reveal a torn tendon in his left hand that required surgery.
Spring training was over, and basically the first few months of the season were lost in recovery.
In typical Seager fashion, he tried to come back as soon as possible, perhaps to his detriment. So, he played in just nine rehab games with Class AAA Tacoma, hitting .256 with a .698 on-base plus slugging percentage, two doubles and seven RBI, before being activated from the 60-day injured list.
In the first 30 games since his return, he posted a .233/.328/.405 slash line (batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage) with five doubles, five homers and 15 RBI. But in the final five games of that stretch, he suffered an injury to his right hand that eventually kept him out of the lineup for a handful of games and remained a lingering issue until the All-Star break offered some relief.
After some extensive work with hitting coach Tim Laker, Seager has started to pick up his production. Over the past 12 games, he has a .341/.408/.705 slash line with two doubles, a triple, four homers and eight RBI.
He had his 11-game hitting streak stopped by the Astros’ combined no-hitter, but came back the next day with a pair of hits, including his 10th homer of the season.
“It’s been better,” he said. “Physically, I felt better. And my positioning (with his swing) has been much better. The swing feels better. Laker and those guy are awesome, and getting in there and picking their brain every day has been helpful.”
Seager was dealing with some balance issues in his swing that left him feeling uncomfortable and out of sync, fouling off pitches that he should drive.
“A lot of that was self-inflicted,” he said. “I think the first 150 at-bats I tried some different things. This winter there was a lot of things that I tried to correct physically and kind of got away from the actual swing I had done in the past. It was kind of dumb on my part. I tried to fix myself physically so I’d be able to make my swing and then I went away from my swing. Those are self-inflicted wounds. But it definitely feels better.”
The losing hasn’t felt good. And it’s difficult to accept. But Seager knows this is part of a process that he will be a part of the next two seasons.
“I’m excited to get out there,” he said. “We have a very young group and we have a lot of guys making their debuts and a lot of guys that are very fresh and that brings a unique energy to the team. Would we like to be winning more games? Obviously, but there’s an energy having a lot of young guys and lot of guys making their debut that keeps it positive.”
While being a vocal leader hasn’t always been his favorite activity, he understands he needs to assume more of those duties as the most senior position player on the team. And part of it is teaching players about dealing with the struggles.
“You need there to be (struggles), that’s how you grow, that’s how you learn, that’s how you adapt,” he said. “If it comes too easy out of the gate, you can get into a lull and pick up some bad habits. When it’s a grind and you aren’t having success is when you find out who wants to work and who wants to get better. The growing pains are something you absolutely need.”
So while he won’t set any personal goals for himself in the final months of the season, he has broader expectations.
“There’s 48 games left,” he said. “There’s a lot of growth you can make and a lot of excitement. You are going to see a lot of new faces the next two months. And this is something you can build off of and help set a foundation of your culture.”
• Class AAA Tacoma placed outfield prospect Jake Fraley on the seven-day minor league injured list Monday with tightness in his quadriceps. Fraley was pulled out of the game Saturday at Cheney Stadium as a precaution. He has not played the past two games. There was some thought Fraley might be called up on this Mariners homestand, but that decision obviously has been delayed.
After putting up outstanding numbers with Class AA Arkansas, Fraley has a .262/.321/.524 slash line with nine doubles, three triples, six homers, 29 RBI and six stolen bases in 32 games with the Rainiers.
• As part of Edgar Martinez Weekend at T-Mobile Park, fans will have the opportunity to see the official bronze plaque that will hang in the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y.
Those who have tickets to the games against the Tampa Bay Rays on Friday and Saturday will have the opportunity to see the plaque during the games. There also is a free public photo opportunity on Saturday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Although the event is free, fans must register online for timed entry admission.