Weeks making strides at plate: Hitting streak at seven games

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McClatchy Tribune
March 30, 2009
— Milwaukee Brewers manager Ken Macha met Sunday morning with hitting coach Dale Sveum to tell him what a nice job he has done with the hitters during spring training.

One of the chief topics of conversation was second baseman Rickie Weeks, and his improvement at the plate during camp.

“I like what I see,” Macha said.

What’s not to like? After a very slow start, during which he was incorporating several suggestions from Sveum into his approach at the plate, Weeks has swung a very hot bat during exhibition play.

Weeks accounted for the only run of the day Sunday with a fifth-inning homer in the Brewers’ 1-0 exhibition victory over San Francisco. The opposite-field blast extended his hitting streak to seven games, during which he is batting .417 (10 for 24) with two homers.

Weeks has hit safely in 14 of 15 games, batting .383 (18 for 47) with three homers and seven RBI.

Weeks still has a “waggle” with his bat before the pitcher makes his delivery, which doesn’t excite Macha. But Sveum has worked with Weeks on slowing it down and stopping it in time to “load up” his swing.

“On some of his outs, balls have gotten too deep on him or he didn’t come to a pause at the end of his ’waggle,’ ” Sveum said.

“I told him the other day, ’When you get your waggle stopped and you’re loaded up, you’re probably batting about .800 in those at-bats. When you’re still doing this (waggling too long), the results haven’t been there.’

“I tell him, ’You don’t get mulligans in a game. A bad approach ends up in a pop-up or missing a pitch right down the middle.’ When he stops that waggle and gathers himself, the results have been astronomical in the games.”

Sveum also got Weeks to put more arc in his swing instead of chopping down on pitches. There also have been minor changes in where he holds his hands and plants his feet.

”Rickie knows why he’s having success and why he hasn’t in the past,“ Sveum said. ”He understands the difference now. He has room for more improvement.

“There’s so much ability and bat speed there. Now, he knows right away if he does something wrong and what can be done about it.”

Overall, Weeks is batting .322 in exhibition play. His objective at this point is to carry over the hitting mechanics he has been successful with into the regular season.

“We’ve been working on some things, talking about some things,” Weeks said. “You want to take it into the games. You just want to keep working at it and getting better.

“I’m trying to perfect some things and keep progressing. I’m feeling pretty good about it. I just want to keep improving. The main thing is I’m seeing the ball (pretty good).”

Macha also commended infield coach Willie Randolph for the work he has done with Weeks’ defense. In 21 games, Weeks has committed just one error.

“This guy has done a lot better,” Macha said. “Willie’s really working with him on slowing down the game. ‘You’ve got time. Don’t try to turn the double play too fast.’’’

Hoffman feels better

Injured closer Trevor Hoffman finally took a small step forward by playing catch with trainer Roger Caplinger and reporting that he felt a bit better in his recovery from an oblique strain.

”Both of them were encouraged,“ Macha said. ”He still has a long way to go but he’s making progress in getting the pain out of there. That’s a good sign.“

Hoffman still appears headed for the disabled list because he doesn’t have enough time left to get ready for the April 7 opener in San Francisco. Macha said the plan was for Hoffman to break camp with the Brewers to continue his treatment and do his throwing program, at some point.

”It’s still a process,“ Macha said. ”It’s really hard to talk about (a rehab assignment) if you haven’t even thrown a bullpen (session). Then we can do projections.“

Braun homers

Playing in a minor-league game for the second consecutive day to test his intercostal tightness, Ryan Braun went 1 for 3 with a three-run homer. The shot came off Los Angeles Angels closer Brian Fuentes, pitching in that game to get work.

Asked if Braun might rejoin the Brewers on Monday, Macha said, ‘’That’s ’Braunie’s’ call.“

”When ’Braunie’ says he’s ready, he’ll move back over,“ Macha added.

Craig Counsell also played in the minors for a second day to continue testing his sore right knee. Counsell went 3 for 4, all singles, and scored a run. He’ll likely rejoin the Brewers on Monday.

Also in that game, right-hander Yovani Gallardo pitched 5 2/3 innings, allowing four hits and two runs, with three walks and five strikeouts. Gallardo threw 106 pitches.

Hart returns

Rightfielder Corey Hart returned after missing two games with what he thought might be food poisoning.

”It was pretty bad,“ said Hart, who went 1 for 3 against the Giants before exiting the game.

”I lost about 7 pounds. I still feel week but I didn’t want to miss three days. I wanted to get back out there.“

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