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Weeks looking forward, never back

Weeks looking forward, never back

PHOENIX -- Rickie Weeks has more surgical scars on his hands and wrists than healthy years in the big leagues. But if you think the Brewers' starting second baseman is stressing about whether the coming season will finally be his breakthrough, then you've got the wrong guy.

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"You can say that barring injuries, things would be different," Weeks said. "But, hey, I've said it a bunch of times: Who cares? What's happened has happened. The way I look at it, it starts now. That's the kind of person I am."

What kind of a baseball player he is remains something of a matter for debate. Weeks is nearly seven years removed from being the second overall pick in the First-Year Player Draft, but he still hasn't logged 500 at-bats in a professional season.

It appeared he was on track last April and May. Weeks entered a May 17 start at St. Louis with nine home runs, tied for ninth-most in the National League and tied with Prince Fielder atop the team leader board. He had already scored 28 runs, tied for seventh in the league.

But Weeks struck out swinging in the first inning that night, and suddenly another season was cut short. He underwent surgery with Phoenix-based specialist Dr. Don Sheridan a few days later to repair a torn sheath around a tendon in his left wrist.

Weeks unfortunately knows Sheridan well. In 2005, Sheridan repaired a torn ligament at the base of Weeks' left thumb. Then, in 2006, Weeks underwent surgery to repair a torn tendon sheath in his right wrist, and landed back on the disabled list in 2007 with lingering soreness in the joint. He also missed the end of the Brewers' 2008 postseason run when he sprained his left knee.

As for the hand injuries, the armchair physical therapists say Weeks' waggle in the batter's box -- think of Gary Sheffield waving his bat in rhythm -- must be the culprit. Others have written Weeks to say his bats have too thick a handle. Weeks calls that talk nonsense and has no plans to change anything about his swing in 2010. So what's behind his constant injury trouble?

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"I don't know, and honestly, I don't really care," Weeks said. "It happened. You can look back and say, 'Why me?' But, hey, God has a different plan, so you have to keep pushing."

He'll push alongside Brewers bench coach Willie Randolph, who was particularly devastated by Weeks' injury last season. It was Randolph's first year on Milwaukee's staff, and he worked extensively with Weeks in Spring Training to soften his hands on defense.

Randolph believes he was seeing progress. Then came the sudden surgery.

"We're just going back to scratch, really," Randolph said. "One of the most disappointing parts of last year, other than the fact we didn't get to the playoffs, was his getting hurt. I really felt like he was ready to take off.

"It looks like he's in great shape right now, so I'm anticipating big things again."

Randolph said Weeks' "in the moment" approach to the game reminds him of freshly minted Hall of Famer Andre Dawson. He's not saying that Weeks is bound for the Hall of Fame, but they have the same focus and intensity, according to Randolph.

"It's almost like a football mentality, and that's how Rickie is," Randolph said. "He's a throwback. He's no-nonsense, doesn't make excuses.

"What's weird is that maybe I was like that, too. I didn't fraternize a lot. I wasn't very talkative on the field. Robin Yount told me when I played with him in Milwaukee after he got to know me, 'Man, you're a pretty good guy. But you never talk! I didn't really like you in the field at first because I always try to say hi and you're real serious.'

Top 10 picks of 2003 Draft
No. Player Pos. Team MLB
games
1 Delmon Young OF TB 452
2 Rickie Weeks 2B MIL 482
3 Kyle Sleeth RHP DET 0
4 Tim Stauffer RHP SD 14
5 Chris Lubanski OF KC 0
6 Ryan Harvey OF CHC 0
7 Nick Markakis OF BAL 626
8 Paul Maholm LHP PIT 127
9 John Danks LHP TEX 91
10 Ian Stewart 3B COL 263

"That was my mentality. Take no prisoners. Play the game hard. I see that in Rickie. He brings an intensity, and even though [Craig] Counsell and other guys did a great job last year picking us up when Rickie went out, I thought we lost our attitude, our edge."

Whether Weeks is himself at the start of the season remains to be seen. The last time he had his surgery, on his right wrist in August 2006, he batted .247 through the end of May before going to the disabled list with tendonitis.

But Weeks and Brewers assistant general manager Gord Ash both point out that Weeks had his surgery three months earlier this time. That means he has had much longer to recover.

"I think it works both ways," Ash said. "He knows better how to approach his rehab. And he's had much longer this time as well, so he had longer to recover. He feels very well, and I know [hitting coach] Dale Sveum already commented that it looks like he's swinging pain-free. It's all optimistic, it's just trying to be conservative at this point."

Weeks said he has been hitting since November. He works out over the winter in Orlando with Brewers teammate Prince Fielder and former teammate (and surprising free agent) Felipe Lopez.

"Last time I was still rehabbing in Spring Training," Weeks said. "This time, I've had three months of hitting to get ready. I've been telling everybody that it doesn't even feel like I had surgery."

Weeks will be particularly focused this spring on getting on the same page with a new shortstop. Rookie Alcides Escobar played extensively after an Aug. 12 callup last season, but Weeks was out by then.

Was there any silver lining to another season cut short?

"There's nothing good about staying out of the game that long," Weeks said. "It's not fun to see the team not do as well as it wants to do. The big thing was just being there for the guys. I'm excited to be back."

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

{"content":["spring_training" ] }
{"content":["spring_training" ] }