MIAMI BEACH, Fla. — Billy Beane and the Oakland A’s used their first-round pick in the 2008 First-Year Player Draft on what they hoped would be the organization’s future second baseman.
Six years later, Jemile Weeks finds himself with the Baltimore Orioles after the A’s traded him last month for closer Jim Johnson.
Coincidentally enough, Weeks made his Major League debut June 7, 2011 in Baltimore. During his rookie season, he hit .303 with 26 doubles, eight triples, two home runs and 36 RBI. He also stole 22 bases and scored 50 times in 97 games.
In 2012, Weeks earned a starting spot on Opening Day and played in 118 games. But he managed just a .221 average, two home runs, 20 RBI and 54 runs. He was left off the postseason roster.
Heading into 2013, rookie Eric Sogard started at second over Weeks, who got only nine plate appearances in the big leagues last season.
“I learned a lot,” said Weeks, who attended Cardinals outfielder Jon Jay’s charity bowling event last Friday. “It was fun. It was an opportunity that I was given, and we made the most of it. There were ups and downs there, but for the most part the support of the fans and the people there was amazing. I couldn’t have asked for more.”
That’s why Weeks, who turned 27 on Sunday, sees it as time for another opportunity.
The former University of Miami product stays in the American League and already knows a few of his new teammates: infielder Ryan Flaherty, center fielder Adam Jones and shortstop J.J. Hardy. Weeks and All-Star third baseman Manny Machado have worked out together at Miami.
Long-time Orioles second baseman Brian Roberts signed with the Yankees last month, leaving Weeks, Flaherty (162 MLB games since 2012) and rookie Jonathan Schoop to battle for the job.
“I think right now it’s one of those things where it’s an open spot,” Weeks said. “I’m one of the guys slotted to have an opportunity at the spot. It’s going in there with the mindset that you have to win. That’s what I feel right now is key. It’s not really about knowing whether I’m on the team or not it’s working to be that guy at second base.”
This offseason, Weeks has spent time in both Orlando and Miami training. While at UM, he works out with former teammates like Padres first baseman Yonder Alonso. In Orlando, he visits Competitor Gym with older brother, Rickie, of the Brewers.
There has been no singular focus of improvement for Weeks. Instead, it’s been about everything from conditioning to hitting to defense.
“Total package because I’m trying to be ready and fully prepared come Feb. 18,” said Weeks, who reports for Spring Training in Sarasota that day. “I’m real excited. I think it’s a big opportunity. Even at that I’m just thankful for the opportunity, period. It’s a blessing.”