PEORIA, Ariz. (AP) — The most noticeable thing is the hair. Gone are the long dreadlocks that were once a Rickie Weeks staple.
He’d worn them since 2008, but said he grew tired of the hair style.
“It’s just one of those things,” Weeks said.
Weeks also made more major changes. After 12 seasons in the Milwaukee organization, he signed a one-year contract with the Seattle Mariners.
And the 32-year-old veteran won’t be strictly be playing second base, his longtime position with the Brewers. The Mariners are trying him out in the outfield.
That’s where Weeks, a second baseman for more than 1,000 games with the Brewers, could make his biggest contribution this season.
Weeks hasn’t played outfield in the major leagues, but for the past few days he’s been taking fly balls and said it comes naturally to him.
“It brought me back to high school,” Weeks said. “That was the last time I played outfield fully.”
Not to say Weeks won’t be exclusively used in left field for the Mariners. Manager Lloyd McClendon has said that Weeks will play second base and third base, and possibly first, on occasion.
That makes Weeks the Mariners’ second utility player expected to be on the opening day roster, along with Willie Bloomquist. Weeks could also find himself sharing playing time with Dustin Ackley in left field.
“The first week, outfield, and then maybe work myself back to infield the second week,” Weeks said of his plan for spring training.
McClendon likes what he’s seen so far.
“I’ve watched Rickie for the last three days,” McClendon said Friday. “I’ve been fairly impressed with the way he’s moving around out there. Listen, I made the transition from catcher to (outfield). Rickie is certainly a much better athlete than I ever was. I don’t see the major concern that most people see. I think he’s going to adapt real easily.”
After an All-Star season in 2011, Weeks’ numbers slipped to a .230 batting average in 2012 and .209 in 2013. The Brewers opted for a platoon at second base with Weeks and Scooter Gennett.
Weeks ended up with about 200 fewer at-bats then Gennett in 2014. Weeks hit .274 with eight homers and 29 RBIs in 121 games.
A hamstring injury had cost him the last two months of the 2013 season. Following the 2014 season, the Brewers decided to move on, declining his contract option for this year.
There were no takers for Weeks, though, until the Mariners and general manager Jack Zduriencik signed him for a year and $2 million. Zduriencik and Weeks go back a long way — Zduriencik approved the drafting and signing of Weeks while serving as the Brewers’ director of scouting in 2003.
After years of reporting to Brewers’ camp in the nearby Maryvale neighborhood of Phoenix, Weeks said there isn’t much difference switching facilities.
“When you show up somewhere, you just do it,” Weeks said. “I don’t have any regrets, or how is it here compared to there. I don’t go through anything like that.”
Weeks compared his first Mariners workout earlier this week to a first day of school.
“New teacher, new guys in the clubhouse,” he said. “You’re trying to learn names. That’s probably the hardest part.”
NOTES: Former Mariners pitcher Brandon Maurer, traded to the San Diego Padres in the offseason, visited his former teammates in the clubhouse. Maurer’s new team shares the fields complex with Seattle. … The Mariners will play an intrasquad game on Monday in preparation for their first spring training game on Wednesday, weather permitting. Rain is expected in the area this weekend. … RHP Erasmo Ramirez is being worked as a starter and not competing for a bullpen spot, McClendon said. Ramirez is out of minor league options after spending the past three seasons shuttling between Seattle and Triple-A Tacoma.
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