Weeks competing to keep job with Brewers
Veteran second baseman taking nothing for granted with Gennett in wings
PHOENIX -- Rickie Weeks has a big league resume. That, however, does not mean he has the assurance of an everyday job.
The Milwaukee Brewers signed Weeks after making him the second player taken in the 2003 First-Year Player Draft after he compiled an NCAA-record .473 batting average at Southern University.
Weeks was the National League's starting second baseman in the 2011 All-Star Game. He has been the Brewers' Opening Day second baseman the last eight seasons. None of that matters right now, though.
Weeks finds himself in a Spring Training battle for a spot in the Brewers' lineup for the first time in a decade. Not that he's complaining. That's not his way.
"It's part of the game," Weeks said. "As competitive as I am, I can't get caught up in these things."
Weeks understands the big picture. There are no squatter rights in baseball. It's about getting the job done.
Weeks has endured his fair share of struggles over the last couple of years. His average slipped to .230 with 169 strikeouts in 2012, and then .209 with 105 strikeouts in a '13 season in which he missed the final two months.
There was a severe left ankle sprain in July 2011, which forced Weeks to spend two months on the disabled list. And he admits the injury had a lingering impact on his game. Then, last August, he suffered a torn left hamstring that sidelined him the final seven weeks of the 2013 season.
That injury gave Scooter Gennett a chance to open some big league eyes, which he did after getting the call from Triple-A Nashville to take over at second base. Gennett hit .324 with six home runs in 213 at-bats.
This spring, there's the lingering question in Brewers camp of who will be their starting second baseman. Could the left-handed-hitting Gennett and right-handed-hitting Weeks platoon? Could Weeks even be dealt? The Yankees have been mentioned as a possible suitor.
"I came here to compete," Weeks said of Spring Training. "It's not up to me to say who's who. All I can do is go out and play the game and let the game speak for itself."
It is up to manager Ron Roenicke to make the ultimate decision, and Roenicke is in no hurry. It is a waiting game for Weeks and Gennett.
"I can't stress out too much," said Gennett. "I just have to come out and continue to do what I did. I know it's a new year. They want to see what I am able to do [in 2014], but it definitely added some confidence to know I can perform at a high level."
Early numbers have been encouraging for Weeks. He hit .353 in the first seven games, with five walks and only three strikeouts. Gennett, meanwhile, went into Monday in a 2-for-18 spring funk, having struck out five times while walking twice.
Roenicke, however, has been around long enough to know that spring numbers don't tell the whole story. The decision-making on who emerges with the second-base job will encompass the approach as much as the stats.
"With Scooter, it's a matter of him repeating last year," Roenicke said of what he is looking for in deciding the second baseman. "With Ricky, it's the health of his hamstring and seeing if the adjustments [he has made in his hitting approach] lets him get back to being the good offensive player he was."
And Weeks was pretty good. From 2010-12, he hit 68 of his 70 home runs as a second baseman. The only big leaguers who hit more while playing second base were Robinson Cano (87) and Dan Uggla (86). Weeks drove in 192 runs while playing second those three seasons, the seventh best among Major League keystoners.
Weeks' offseason was busy. The man proclaimed by Cosmopolitan Magazine in 2009 as "Baseball's Sexiest Man," got married, and he worked to regain the offensive abilities from an earlier time. He dropped his hands in his hitting approach, and he eliminated some of the movement.
"His hands are in a better place," said Roenicke. "It looks like there is a good chance he can come back and be that offensive guy again."
It was mentioned to Roenicke that Weeks referred to the lowering of his hands as a "a minor" adjustment. The manager smiled.
"It may seem minor to us, but to a player, it's huge," he said. "An inch or two can make a big difference for a player."
Weeks is counting on that to be the case for him.
Tracy Ringolsby is a columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.