Jemile Weeks working to win back Oakland A's job at second base

PHOENIX — Jemile Weeks, knocked off the mountain top last year, says his Willie Mays Hayes impersonation of 2012 was a fluke and that he's going to make the A's decision on a starter at second base a difficult one.

Weeks was the starter at second on opening day last March, got off to a quick and powerful start and seemed poised to replicate his successful rookie season. But he tumbled so badly that by mid-August, just about the time Oakland was gearing up for a stretch drive for the American League West title, he was demoted to Triple-A Sacramento.

``It's very important to me to be the starter again,'' Weeks said. ``The next 35-40 days are a time when I can prove myself, show myself and force the A's hand. It's up to the brass to make the decisions, but I'm going to make it hard on them.''

Weeks hit two homers in his first 37 at-bats. There were suggestions that he, like the Willie Mays Hayes character immortalized by Wesley Snipes in ``Major League,'' got focused on the power and got away from the strength of his game, which is to slash line drives, using his speed to get on base and to serve as a generator for Oakland's offense.

``That's the biggest misconception there is about my season last year,'' Weeks said. ``Because my idea of baseball is hitting line drives all over the place. That's what my game is. I never got away from that.''

The line drives never fell in, however. After hitting .303 as a rookie, Weeks had his average peak at .229 on June 2, then flop all over the place from there, finishing at .221 after a three-week stint in August and September in the minor leagues.

When Cactus League games start Saturday, Weeks will have a single-minded ``focus on getting my game back.''

He won't be alone, however. The man who was supposed to be the starting third baseman last year, Scott Sizemore, is back at what is probably his best defensive position. Jed Lowrie, just acquired from Houston, is a shortstop with power who came into pro ball as a second baseman. Adam Rosales was a rising star in .210 when he hit .271 in about half a season and is trying to come back to relevance. And then there is Eric Sogard, a versatile 26-year-old who manager Bob Melvin keeps talking up.

``It's a big opportunity for Jemile after the sophomore slump or whatever he went through last year,'' Melvin said. ``He's got a lot of talent. He's got a lot of competition at second base, too.''

Sizemore lost all of 2012 thanks to a knee injury and is on a mission to become a regular part of the Oakland lineup again.

``It was fun to watch what we did last year; I had the best seat in the house,'' Sizemore said.

Fun? Really?

``Well, not at first,'' Sizemore said. ``When you first get injured and then have the surgery and start the rehab, that is the worst. There is no lonelier feeling than that. But it's all in the past. I feel good. I'm ready to go.''

Lowrie is part of the equation at shortstop as well as at second base. The difference being that second base is open while the A's are going to go with Hiroyuki Nakajima unless he gives them a reason not to. So Lowrie could slip in as the starter at second, where he was a star at Stanford.

``I prefer shortstop, but I'm comfortable at second,'' Lowrie said. ``Mostly I just want to play.''

Melvin is blessed with largess throughout the lineup, and at second base as much as anywhere.

``I see it as a win-win situation.'' Melvin said. ``Weeks could be a weapon. So could Sizemore or Lowrie. You can't count Rosie out. And you can't forget about Sogard.''

Now it's up to someone to grab the position and make it his own, and that should be one of the most compelling stories once Cactus League games start Saturday.

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