For Weeks, small change netting big results
PHOENIX -- Rickie Weeks has made some long-debated adjustments to his batting stance, and Brewers manager Ron Roenicke loves the early results.
"Geez, he's killing the baseball," Roenicke said Tuesday morning, before Weeks manned second base against the A's. "I hope he continues it. When he's swinging the bat like this, he is really fun to watch."
Because he arrived amid such high expectations after the Brewers made Weeks the second overall pick in the 2003 Draft, Weeks' batting stance has long been the focus of debate. Throughout his career he has held his hands particularly low, and has waggled the bat like Gary Sheffield.
Through hand injuries, productive seasons and otherwise, Weeks mostly remained consistent in his stance. Now, after batting .230 in 2012 and .209 in 2013, the waggle is still there but Weeks altered the position of his hands with offseason input from Nate Oliver, a former coach in Milwaukee's Minor League system.
"Keeping things smooth, really," Weeks said when asked to describe the tweak. "If you keep it smooth, everything kind of falls into place. The biggest thing is slowing down. My hands are a tad bit higher. It's a minute [difference]."
So minute that it is difficult to see with the naked eye. But Roenicke believes the adjustment is significant.
"As you get older, you learn to do different things," Roenicke said. "I think sometimes you just realize that, 'I'm not successful in this and I've got to make some improvements.' Sometimes it's with stance, sometimes it's your thinking that changes. He's made some adjustments, and right now, it looks really good."
Weeks is 4-for-9 with a home run and four walks in his first four spring games. On Tuesday, he led off the game by scalding a line drive to left field, where Yoenis Cespedes made a nice running catch to rob Weeks of an extra-base hit. Weeks drew a walk in each of his next two plate appearances before grounding out in his final plate appearance.
"I feel great," Weeks said. "This is probably the best I've felt in a long time, actually. Stay hungry, I guess."
His hot streak is well-timed. Weeks, set to earn $11 million this season in the final guaranteed year of his contract, is in a battle with 23-year-old Scooter Gennett. When Weeks tore his left hamstring last August and needed surgery, Gennett capitalized, and finished the season batting .324 while playing better-than-advertised defense.
The Brewers say second base is an open competition, and other Major League teams are probably watching. The Brewers could try to trade one of their second basemen later in camp, or they could institute the sort of platoon that was actually working last season before Weeks was hurt.
Weeks is making the decision difficult so far.
"If you guys watch balls come off his bat, it's pretty scary," Roenicke said. "He's one of those rare guys that has that kind of pop that it doesn't matter where he hits it."