PHOENIX -- A year ago, the Brewers knew little about outfielder Norichika Aoki beyond some video from Japan and a brief tryout camp. Today, they like him enough to make him the club's leadoff hitter.
Stressing that things can change, manager Ron Roenicke indicated on Thursday that he's leaning that way, saying Aoki would begin the year batting leadoff with second baseman Rickie Weeks in the two-hole.
"And then we'll see how it goes," Roenicke said. "[Aoki] can do a lot of different things. He sees a lot of pitches, which is really important for me. He'll walk. He stole a lot of bases last year. All of those things are important in the leadoff spot, but the biggest thing, really, is getting on base."
Aoki, who was greeted with hugs and smiles upon reporting to camp on Thursday morning, is coming off a solid debut season in which he batted .288 with 10 home runs, 37 doubles, 30 stolen bases and a .355 on-base percentage. He also adjusted to a new language, culture, clubhouse and style of play.
"He really had an impressive year last year," Roenicke said. "Last year, he came in here knowing he had to show us something. This year, that's a little different. Because of the type of person he is, I know he'll still go about it that way, but there is a difference. I think he should enjoy it more."
Weeks has started 595 career games in the leadoff hole and owns a .356 on-base percentage from that spot. He has appeared in 122 games as a No. 2 hitter with a .225 average and a .313 on-base percentage.
By batting him second in front of left fielder Ryan Braun and third baseman Aramis Ramirez, the Brewers would try to induce a more steady diet of fastballs for Weeks, a good fastball hitter.
Braun would follow in the three-hole, then cleanup hitter Ramirez. With Corey Hart sidelined at least the first month by a knee injury, catcher Jonathan Lucroy is a candidate to hit fifth, followed by first baseman Mat Gamel. Center fielder Carlos Gomez and shortstop Jean Segura will cover the seventh and eighth spots, depending on whether Roenicke is comfortable with a young player like Segura in front of the pitcher.