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Wednesday, March 4, 1998 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Blaine Newnham

Segui's Passion Should Be Powerful Addition For M's

Times Staff Columnist

PEORIA, Ariz. - David Segui's effect on the Seattle Mariners might get lost in the roar of his chrome-plated Harley-Davidson, symbolic of a player whose engine runs at a few more rpm than most.

"Let's put it this way," Mariner Manager Lou Piniella said, "he will add a little spark to our lineup."

Segui, the 31-year-old replacement for first baseman Paul Sorrento, sat earlier in the week reading a newspaper in the celebrity corner of the clubhouse, near the lockers of Ken Griffey Jr. and Jay Buhner. Around him swirled talk about the audacious comments made by rookie pitcher Ryan Anderson.

Segui never looked up. He was intense about reading the paper. He seems intense about everything.

"People have tried to get me to calm down when I play," Segui said, "but I have to play mad."

Segui was mad last season when he accused Montreal management of not caring whether the team won or lost.

"It irritated me," he said, "to be playing your heart out while knowing management would prefer you not do so well so they wouldn't have to pay you as much.

"It's a terrible atmosphere. Those people should be in a different line of work. Selling Avon, maybe. Don't they know that to make money in baseball you have to spend money?"

Technical reasons abound why the Mariners will be better off this season with Segui instead of Sorrento.

Reasons as esoteric as Segui's ability to throw with his left arm instead of his right for quicker relays to second base on potential double-play balls.

And as obvious as being a switch-hitter who seldom strikes out.

"Sorrento had a good year for us," Mariner Manager Lou Piniella said, "but from the sixth inning on most of the time he had to face left-handed pitching or we just had to get him out of there.

"With Segui, we just turn him around."

Segui never has hit 31 home runs in a season, which Sorrento did last year, but he hit 21 in 125 games last year for Montreal and should do better this season playing in a smaller park, surrounded by better hitters.

Segui makes contact. He batted .307 last season compared with Sorrento's .269. He struck out almost half as often.

Segui will bat fifth, between Edgar Martinez and Buhner, joining them as a tough stretch of right-handers for a left-handed pitcher, or breaking up that stretch by batting left-handed against a right-hander.

Segui has switch-hit since he was 6 years old. He had the highest average of any switch-hitter in the National League in 1995, but still labors to keep his two swings in tune.

"They never feel good at the same time," he said. "I don't know why, but they don't."

Segui's competitive fire never goes out. He made a brilliant play to bag a high bouncing ball to his right Monday against the A's, then slammed his fist in his glove when the throw to Randy Johnson at first base was late.

Segui is explosive. Mentally and physically. He is a better athlete than the first basemen who preceded him, Sorrento and Tino Martinez.

He also is more emotional. On par, probably, with his manager.

"(Piniella) hasn't seen it yet," Segui said of his temper. "He'll see it when the two of us are fighting over the water cooler to see who will throw it."

Segui sees himself as more fearless than reckless. He doesn't wear a helmet when he drives his Harley, but makes his son wear one when he rides his bike.

"A little plastic isn't going to help you if a car smokes you," he said. "I'm not easily intimidated by things."

Segui spent two and a half seasons in Montreal. He couldn't wait until his six years of major-league service was up to move on. In his wake, the situation hasn't changed. The Expo payroll will be $6.5 million.

"To play in Seattle, where the goal from the start is to win the World Series, is really exciting," he said. "I was paid in Montreal, but you don't play to get paid. You play to get to the World Series."

Segui came up in the Baltimore organization, making his major-league debut in 1990. His first full season came in 1993, when he batted .274 and drove in 60 runs. Then he was traded to the Mets, and to the Expos. He suffered a broken thumb in 1996 and had knee surgery in 1997.

Seattle is a perfect place for him to end his career. It is where his father, Diego, was on the mound to start for the Seattle Pilots in 1969 and the Mariners in 1976.

The two are close. Their ranches outside Kansas City, Kan., abut. Son has 60 acres, dad 30. They hunt and fish together.

"I'd rather kill stuff than catch it," David said of his sporting preferences. "Hunting is relaxing to me, watching the dogs work, the birds in flight, shooting. I love guns. That is another passion for me."

Passion is no problem for David Segui.

You can contact Blaine Newnham by voice mail at 206-464-2364.

Copyright (c) 1998 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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