Notes: Weeks works star waggle

Notes: Weeks works star waggle

HOUSTON -- Years before "the waggle" became a part of Rickie Weeks' batting style, one observer was already comparing him to Gary Sheffield.

"I thought that before I ever saw him hit," said Dave Lawson, the Brewers' official stats guru and a confidant of general manager Doug Melvin.

"Everything was there," said Lawson, who monitored Weeks' stat lines through the Minors. "He hit for average, he hit for power, he took his walks and, yeah, he struck out a little bit. But everything was there."

Then Lawson saw it in person. Looking to refine his timing late last season, Weeks began to waggle his bat while waiting in the batter's box. Now, everywhere he and the Brewers go, the comparisons to the Yankees' Sheffield follow.

"I was absolutely shocked when I saw that," Lawson said. He lives in Ft. Worth, Tex. and has been attending the Brewers-Astros games this weekend.

Called up in mid-June, Weeks has been serving lately as the Brewers' leadoff hitter in place of the injured Brady Clark, who is sidelined with bruised ribs. Friday marked Weeks' seventh start in the leadoff hole.

Does he have a future there?

"I think he could hit anywhere in the top three spots," Melvin said. "There's no doubt that he has a future, and you want to keep him near the top of the lineup, I think, because he is so selective. I don't think where you put him is going to affect his style. He seems to stay pretty focused."

Entering play on Friday, Weeks was batting .259 with 11 home runs and a .351 on-base percentage. He struck out 64 times in his first 232 at-bats, but also walked 23 times and was hit by a pitch 10 times.

"His strikeouts might be a little high in peoples' minds, but that's because he doesn't have a fear of hitting with two strikes on him," Melvin said. "With Rickie, even if he strikes out two or three times in a game like he did last night, it doesn't affect his next at-bat."

On Thursday, Weeks struck out in his first two at-bats against Roger Clemens, then connected in his third try for a solo home run, which Clemens called a game-changing play in the Brewers' eventual win.

Weeks only had brief Minor League experience batting leadoff, when the Brewers were looking to get him more at-bats at Double-A last season.

"The only time I change is the first part of the game, when I want to take more pitches than usual in my first at-bat," Weeks said. "I'm not really worried about [getting] two strikes. I've struck out quite a few times this year, but the main thing is not fearing the strikeout. When I'm going good, I like to work the count and I actually like hitting with two strikes sometimes."

Planning ahead: With Clark, infielder Jeff Cirillo (fractured finger) and relievers Julio Santana (shoulder tendinitis) and Matt Wise (strained intercostals) all eligible to return from the disabled list between Aug. 24-26, Melvin & Co. have some roster management looming. If any of those players need extra time to recover, the team could wait until rosters expand on Sept. 1 to make the moves.

"But you don't want to do that if these players can help you win," Melvin said.

Cirillo played the first game of his Minor League rehabilitation assignment for Triple-A Nashville on Thursday night, going 0-for-2 in five innings. He was to play another five-inning stint on Friday night, then be evaluated on Saturday.

Missing link: Outfield and baserunning coach Dave Nelson is anxious to have Clark back in the lineup. The team waited several days to place him on the DL, hoping his rib injury would quickly heal.

"With Brady, you know exactly what you're going to get," Nelson said. "For us to be at our best, we need Brady at 100 percent. Just when you think that guy is in a slump, he seems to rattle off 11 straight hits. We need that Brady."

Clark is fifth in the National League with a .311 batting average.

Back home: Players who tuned into CNN on Friday learned about a series of tornadoes that cut through central Wisconsin on Thursday. One person was killed and more than 20 injured.

"It doesn't matter if it's in Wisconsin, Kansas, Oklahoma or whatever," said catcher Damian Miller, who grew up in West Salem, Wis., in the western part of the state. "As athletes we're just playing a game, and when you think about people losing their houses, it puts things in perspective. Guys in the clubhouse are already talking about it today. Our thoughts are with the people back home."

Last call: Third baseman Russell Branyan made his third straight start at third base, the first time he started three consecutive days since May 16-18. ... Manager Ned Yost, pitcher Chris Capuano and infielder J.J. Hardy all celebrated their birthday on Friday. ... Entering play, the Brewers' bullpen had an 0.87 ERA on the current road trip and had surrendered one home run in the last 13 games.

On deck: Right-hander Ben Sheets will try to get back to .500 when he faces the Astros on Saturday night. Sheets has lost both of his starts against the Astros this season, bookending his month-long stint on the disabled list with an inner-ear condition. He spent two nights in a Houston hospital with vestibular neuritis, a condition that threw his balance out of whack.

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