Jemile Weeks making best of chance to learn from Hall of Famer Barry Larkin

PHOENIX -- Jemile Weeks' rookie season ended last September, but his baseball education continued into the winter.

The A's second baseman found a valuable tutor in Hall of Fame shortstop Barry Larkin. They live near each other in Central Florida, and Larkin dishes out whatever wisdom he can offer.

He has found Weeks to be an eager pupil.

"He's like a sponge," Larkin said in a phone interview. "He takes any kind of information, and you can see him applying it. I think the world of him as a person, but I think he has a tremendously high ceiling because of his ability to make adjustments and add things to his game."

Weeks made quite a first impression in 2011, batting .303 with 26 doubles, eight triples and 22 stolen bases in 97 games following his June call-up.

His batting average led major league rookies with 350 or more plate appearances. But more than anything, Weeks' speed and exciting play provided a shot in the arm for a team -- and fan base -- that suffered through a 74-88 record.

A's general manager Billy Beane proceeded to trade away several high-profile players during the offseason, but he labeled the switch-hitting Weeks as the one untouchable player on his major league roster.

"He's a great talent, a unique talent," Beane said. "And he's only got a half-year in the major leagues. He's a guy who is very much part of our long-term future."

Now the key is whether Weeks, 25, can build on his breakout season, which was hardly flawless.

His 13 errors led American League second basemen even though he spent roughly the first two months of the season in the minors. Weeks' glove work has been his weak spot since the A's drafted him 12th overall in 2008 out of the University of Miami.

He worked extensively with A's infield coach Mike Gallego after his promotion last June. And despite the errors, A's manager Bob Melvin said he thought Weeks actually made more progress defensively in 2011 than offensively.

So far this spring, Weeks has impressed Melvin in turning the double play.

"His mechanics are so much better," Melvin said. "I think a lot has to do with his confidence, coming into camp confident based on what he did last year."

Credit an assist to Larkin, who will be inducted into Cooperstown in July.

He began working several years ago with Weeks' older brother Rickie, who plays second base for the Brewers.

Jemile said he has benefited greatly from Larkin's tutelage over the past two winters.

"He's given me a number of drills that I can stick with," Weeks said. "He's talked to me about different aspects of the game, how to handle myself. Everything that comes out of his mouth is important."

While breaking into the majors with the Reds in the mid-1980s, Larkin said he tapped into the wisdom of veterans such as Buddy Bell, Dave Concepcion and Tony Perez. Now he's happy to take on the mentor role, and he said many of the techniques that served him well as a shortstop can help Weeks as a second baseman.

He has worked with Weeks to get the most out of his athleticism defensively.

"He's a young exciting player," Larkin said. "I wish I had a chance to play with him, to be honest. I love his makeup and love the way he plays the game."

Bookmark and Share
blog comments powered by Disqus