PEORIA, Ariz. (AP) — Seattle third baseman Kyle Seager enters the 2019 season after a physical and dietary makeover. He learned to embrace flexibility training, spinach, and a long-term health plan.
Seager played the second half of last season with a broken left big toe, and while that did not knock him out of the lineup, it affected his ability to plant and drive forward and led to a .221 batting average and a .273 on-base percentage, career lows.
Even after a seventh consecutive 20-home run season, he felt it was time to try something new.
“It really opened my eyes and pointed out I needed to make some adjustments,” Seager said. “I needed to make some changes physically. I knew my body wasn’t recovering like it should.”
Seager, who leads major league third basemen with 1,079 games since 2012, said his new program with North Carolina-based trainer Jason Lindsey concentrated on stretching and flexibility rather that weight work.
“The first aspect was physically cleaning up all the areas that were so inflexible,” Seager said.
Seager did stretches and exercises in the early mornings before driving his children to school and continuing on to his training session. He did more exercises at night.
Seager learned that his broken toe, generally traced to a late June at-bat, was not caused by a foul ball but by his general inflexibility, as were other issues.
“My back would get tight on me throughout the season,” Seager said. “It always has done that. I thought you play third base, you do 150 squats a day basically over there, you are going to get tight. You swing a lot. Going to Jason, he pointed out a lot of other areas of my body that were tight and that were causing issues. It (flexibility) is important for swing, defense, everything.”
Manager Scott Servais said Seager’s changes have been noticeable in early batting practice.
“It (swing) looks a little bit different,” Servais said. “It is probably what we saw more out of Kyle earlier in his career. Hopefully, he can get his body in better positions and get it moving better and get the results he is looking for.”
Seager has hit .258 with 249 doubles, 175 homers and 603 RBIs in an eight-year career that includes a Gold Glove, an All-Star appearance and a 12th-place finish in the 2016 AL MVP voting.
A self-acknowledged tinkerer at the plate, Seager said he is anxious to see how the offseason work translates in games. The Mariners open the exhibition season Thursday and play their first regular-season games Mach 20-21 in Tokyo against Oakland.
“Whether it was not being able because of being inflexible or trying to protect the toe, I would try to get off the back side as much as I could and spin and just try to run into something,” he said of last season. “I knew it wasn’t good, but I figured maybe on that given day you will run into something. I think we’ll clean that up. There is still work to be done with it. It is not a finished product, but it is exciting.”
At 31, Seager finds himself as one of the remaining veterans after the offseason loss of Robinson Cano, Nelson Cruz, Edwin Diaz, Jean Segura and Mike Zunino.
“There is a lot of new for sure, but change doesn’t always have to be bad,” Seager said. “We didn’t win last year. If you don’t win, you obviously need to make changes.”
The winter speculation that he could be another to go was nothing he dwelled on.
“That stuff is so out of my control,” he said. “It is something, you are human, you think about. This offseason was really focused on getting prepared as opposed to really worrying about all that stuff.”
As one of the veterans, Seager said he relishes a chance to help the younger group.
“It’s definitely an honor, and it is something I don’t take lightly,” he said. “There are guys you want to strive to be more like, and I want people to think of me in that light. You always hear you want to leave the game better than you found it, and I think there is a lot of validity in that.”