Weeks provides 'winning' energy for A's

Weeks provides 'winning' energy for A's

Weeks provides 'winning' energy for A's
OAKLAND -- In the confines of a typical Draft room scene not much more than three years ago, A's general manager Billy Beane and his army of scouting gurus sat deliberating on a handful of premier prospects.

Staring back at them was film of a speedy switch-hitting infielder out of the University of Miami. He was listed at a generous 5-foot-9 and displayed a knack for flare, flash and extra-base hits. Even more, this player greeted the latter with a fast set of hand claps once securely on the bag and standing.

And that's when Beane and Co. decided to make Jemile Weeks their first-round pick in 2008.

"We were trying to make a decision on a couple of guys," Beane recalled, "and I said, 'We need some of that. I want to see a guy who does exactly that.'"

The outlook appeared dim during the three years that followed, as Weeks played in just 176 Minor League games because of nagging leg and hip issues.

But the 24-year-old second baseman, younger brother of the Brewers' Rickie Weeks, needed only 45 more games to assure Oakland that his promising ways -- a .321 average with three homers, 22 RBIs and 10 stolen bases in that span at Triple-A -- could translate onto the big league scene.

On June 7, the A's placed veteran Mark Ellis on the disabled list with a hamstring strain amidst a season-high seven-game losing streak. Precious little gave A's fans reason for excitement, given the mounting number of wounded players and the equally growing separation from first place in the American League West.

Weeks' arrival, along with interim skipper Bob Melvin's just two days later, has helped changed that. The losses continued for all of three days upon the youngster's promotion, but entering Tuesday's series opener against the Mets in New York, the A's will bring with them a five-game winning streak -- not to mention a few significant intangibles made courtesy of Weeks.

"He's added some swagger that I think we've been missing a little bit," Conor Jackson said. "He's definitely thrown in some energy."

All that and more, including 16 hits in 44 at-bats (for a .362 average) and five multihit games. Seven of his 16 hits have been for extra bases, among them three triples -- meaning lots of claps.

"When we drafted him," Beane said, "we envisioned the guy we've seen in the last week, a guy that can do a lot of things -- run, hit the gaps and create some excitement."

One of Oakland's all-time greats, who offered much of the same, agrees.

"I think he's exciting," said Rickey Henderson, who worked with Weeks plenty at the Double-A level. "Usually you get a guy like that just coming up to the big leagues, he's got a little fire in him. He's a little hyper out there. It seems like the team picks something up."

The swagger, the excitement, the hyperness -- it's all simply a credit to comfortability, something Weeks gained rather quickly.

"I just came in hoping to add to what these guys have already been doing, hopefully add a spark and do the little things here and there to help us stay uplifted and win each game," Weeks said. "That's all I'm trying to bring to the team."

"He's doing a phenomenal job," Coco Crisp said. "He came in here with a lot of energy, but he carries himself wonderful and plays the game hard and hustles -- everything a young guy should do. So we're lucky to have him on our team right now. He's doing the job better than you can ask for."

Weeks' presence, which has included more than a few noteworthy defensive plays, comes at the expense of Ellis, who for a decade has been a bedrock of dependability for an A's organization that views him as the ultimate consummate professional.

Ellis is expected to be reinstated from the DL on Wednesday, at which point the A's will have to ultimately choose between youth and a veteran when filling in the second-base spot in the lineup. Weeks' performance has seemingly guaranteed a prolonged stay in the Majors, meaning a demotion is unlikely.

That sets up another potential move, as another member of the A's -- possibly a struggling Daric Barton -- could be optioned. But while neither Beane nor Melvin has tipped a hand about the looming decision, the A's general manager hinted Weeks has earned his roster spot.

"We would not have called Jemile up if he was just going to be a bench guy," Beane said. "A player like Jemile needs to play all the time.

"There was no guarantee going in, but we thought he was the type of kid that was going to respond at the higher levels. At each level he went up to, he'd be able to play. But given that this is the big leagues, it's never easy to come up and do what he's done. He doesn't look afraid."

Weeks assures he's not. He's intent on achieving at the plate, on the bases and in the middle of the infield, where he's impressed several familiar faces in the organization.

"There are obviously some things I think can only make him better, but for the most part, he's definitely not intimidated," A's infield coach Mike Gallego said. "He said he was nervous the first game. I think he did a pretty good job hiding it. He's definitely an excited player we're all anxious to continue to watch play.

"As he learns the intricate parts of the game, he's only going to get better, day in and day out. I'm impressed with his interest in learning."

The neverending lessons are already being learned.

After just six home games, Weeks trotted out to the plate with a walk-up song -- Ace Hood's "Hustle Hard," only to go 0-for-4 and hear a playful mouthful from his teammates, who told the young hotshot he had to be in the bigs at least three years before picking out such theme music.

Weeks hasn't exactly surprised himself by his immediate acclimation to the big leagues.

"I guess you could say I'm just excited about it," he said.

"I knew within myself I could calm down and act like I'm part of this team," he explained.

Said Gallego: "He's not a complete project yet, but he definitely has some great starting points. The face that we're molding already has a face to it.

"He gives off this youthful look, obviously with his size and his face and his wild hair, but when you get between the lines, this is a grown man. And he plays like one."

The hair hasn't been cut in two years. It's not going anywhere. And Weeks likely isn't either.

"All we do is trim," he said. "No cutting. That's it."

Jane Lee is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.