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Arizona Fall League Notebook

By Jack Magruder
October 18, 2004

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz.--As if Rickie Weeks' first full professional summer season was not long enough, he finished it with some homework of a sort, his own private take-home review.

During his short break between the conclusion of the regular season in Double-A Huntsville and the start of the Arizona Fall League, Weeks returned to his Florida home and entered his observations and lessons learned into a notebook.

"When I got home, the first thing that popped out of my head I wanted to write down--what I thought would be useful to me coming here and also for next year to get ready for the season," Weeks said.

"It's just stuff that you remember from the season. Once I write something down, it's easier to remember."

Stuff like how pitchers can change their approach with runners on base, or with runners in scoring position. Stuff like being more patient, working deeper counts, and being more selective.

The Brewers made Weeks the second player taken in the 2003 draft, and not only did they get a power bat in the middle infield that some scouts believe could be a Jeff Kent-type middle-of-the-order run producer, they got a player with thirst-for-knowledge approach. And it has not gone unnoticed.

"He's a guy that doesn't mind thinking, and that's half the battle. He's a cerebral kid that thinks through situations," said Stan Kyles, who has spent the last four years in the Milwaukee organization and is the pitching coach for Scottsdale.

"He may not always take advantage of every situation now, but you can see the process going. A lot of times, kids with talent just want to rely on the talent itself and not go through the growing pains of trying to learn situations and situational hitting and things like that.

"You see the wheels turning in his head, and it gets you even more excited, not only about his physical abilities but also about his ability to handle situations and be able to focus in situations."

Weeks, 22 and now playing for the Scorpions this fall, has undergone a whirlwind exposure to the pro game since being drafted out of Southern.

Weeks batted .259-8-42 with 35 doubles, six triples and 11 stolen bases while playing strictly second base for the Stars this year. While he struck out 107 times, he also drew 55 walks and had a .366 on-base percentage.

He seemed to get stronger as the season progressed, after making adjustments to the pitching at the Double-A level.

"I kind of had a better feeling of what I had to do to succeed, I guess. Overall, it went pretty well," Weeks said. "I was just trying to be more patient. That's my main goal. Try to be more patient and try to get a better pitch to hit."

While that is sometimes troublesome for an aggressive hitter, Weeks said the results of working the counts are worth it.

"When you are patient and get better pitches to hit, you are still able to be aggressive in certain counts," Weeks said.

Milwaukee still finds his offensive tools impressive.

"The thing that most sticks out is the pop that he has in his bat," Kyles said. "The quick hands. The ability to drive the ball well. He has a nice short, compact swing that is only gong to get better as he matures and he gets a better understanding of the strike zone.

"Obviously he's got some things to work on. But from where he is at--from where we signed him, where he is now and where he is going--the process is moving very well. I think when he is the finished product, it is very easy for us to project him to be a Jeff Kent-type player in the big leagues."

Weeks also wrote some personal offseason goals--to do more strength and conditioning training, and to eat better. His focus is on doing everything it takes to become a more complete player, and is approaching that with a mindset of moving from level to level to get there.

"A lot of times, you may not get what you want out of a season", he said in reference to his average and home run totals in 2004. "But you have to take pieces from what you did well and try to build from that. The things you didn't do well, you have to keep grinding to try to make that better.

"Right now, you have one goal in mind, and that's to get to the next level and win some ball games there. You just keep working hard for as long as possible and hope one day it will pay off in the long run."

FALL GUYS

The Frank Robinson Rule, designed to protect pitching staffs and named after the former Fall League commissioner, was implemented twice in the first week of the season this year, resulting in the suspension after 11 innings of tie games between Phoenix and Mesa on Oct. 5 and Grand Canyon and the Peoria Saguaros on Oct. 11. After the long regular season, many pitchers are working on limited pitch counts strictly monitored by the parent clubs.

The Phoenix Desert Dogs won their five games before losing home-and-home games against the Peoria Saguaros. Phoenix's Ryan Howard (Phillies) was .441-3-10 though nine games, tied for the league lead in homers with Grand Canyon's Chris Shelton (Tigers) and tied for the RBIs lead with Shelton and the Peoria Javelinas' Ryan Garko (Indians). Howard led the league with 15 hits and six doubles. Carlos Lee holds the record for doubles in a season, 19, in 1998.

The Javelinas turned a triple play in the first inning of a 10-6 loss to Scottsdale on Oct. 15. After the first two runners of the game reached safely, Scottsdale's Royce Huffman (Astros) hit a line drive caught by Javelinas' pitcher Richard Stahl (Orioles). Stahl threw to second base to double off the first runner, and the relay to first base completed the triple play.

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