The Orioles will roll out the red carpet for free-agent first baseman Rafael Palmeiro this afternoon and celebrate a
dynamic upturn in the offensive potential of the club, but there is one member of the organization who is in no position to rejoice.
The other first baseman.
David Segui just finished his first season as the Orioles' full-time first baseman . . . and his last. He will have to step aside to make room for Palmeiro, which could mean a return to the utility role he played in two previous seasons with the Orioles, or a trade to some other club.
"I just wonder how much time I have left there," Segui, 27, said from his home in Kansas City, Kan. "I haven't heard anything from anybody, so I don't know what their plans are."
It wasn't personal. The Orioles tried to make that much clear last night, when general manager Roland Hemond announced the deal. He praised the contribution Segui made in 1993 and insisted the Orioles still considered him a valued member.
Segui didn't have a season to compare with Palmeiro's 37-home run, 105-RBI performance, but he set career highs with 10 home runs and 60 RBIs. He knows that he made great strides in his first season as an everyday player, but he isn't so self-assured that he wasn't stung by the news that the club is signing Palmeiro to a five-year, $30 million contract.
"There's a part of me that was," Segui said. "I thought I proved I could play every day. I know that I didn't have 90 RBIs last year, but 60 isn't bad for the eighth hole in the lineup and I don't think that it was a career year by any means.
"I don't know why they went looking for somebody else, but it's their decision. I can understand that they want to strengthen the lineup."
What happens now? The Orioles could try to package Segui in a deal for pitching help. He has value as a strong defensive first baseman and a line-drive hitter from both sides of the plate. He just doesn't have the kind of punch that Palmeiro displayed last season.
The Orioles also could keep Segui and use him in a utility role. He proved in 1992 that he could play capably in the outfield, so it is possible that he could get sufficient at-bats playing in reserve at first base and in the outfield and occasionally spelling designated hitter Harold Baines against a tough left-hander.
"I think at some point in the next few days I'll be talking to David," said manager Johnny Oates. "When you sign a guy like Rafael Palmeiro, he becomes your everyday first baseman. We'll sit down and talk to David and let him know what his role on this ballclub will be.
RTC "We know he can play first base and the outfield. We know he's a switch-hitter and he's a gamer. But when you can pick up a Rafael Palmeiro, you've got to go for it."
Segui didn't dispute that, but he doesn't cherish the thought of returning to the bench. He was the No. 3 first baseman behind Glenn Davis and Randy Milligan for two years before moving into the full-time role last season.
"I don't really want to get back into that ninth-inning defensive thing after a taste of playing every day," he said. "I guess it depends on how many at-bats they can find me."
It is still early in the off-season, so conditions could change. There has been speculation that the club will try to trade center fielder Mike Devereaux and move Brady Anderson over to
replace him, which would leave an opening in the outfield. That appeals to Segui, but it could be an agonizing winter waiting for that long shot to come in.