PHOENIX – Rickie Weeks made his first appearance in the field at spring training Thursday, starting at second base for the Milwaukee Brewers’ 8-6 Cactus League loss against Cincinnati.
He’d been held out of the Brewers’ first four games due to soreness in his right shoulder. Weeks participated in defensive drills Wednesday and was deemed ready to go Thursday against the Reds.
“He looked good,” manager Ron Roenicke said. “He had the one play where he came over, the throw was off, but he made a pretty good play getting to it. He’s doing a nice job running the bases. Just like Ryan’s home run, it’s nice to have a guy that walks in front of him and having a solo home run.”
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Weeks will have Friday off, as will newly acquired shortstop Alex Gonzalez. The next step, Roenicke said, is to get the two on the field together to work on their timing.
While he hasn’t played in the field, Weeks has seen action at the plate, appearing in three of the Brewers’ four games as the designated hitter. He’s hitting .200 during camp (1-for-5) with a double, two walks and a strikeout and was hit by a pitch Wednesday against the White Sox.
Roenicke has been pleased with Weeks’ approach this early in camp.
“I like his at-bats,” Roenicke said. “He’s seeing the ball well.
“Last year, at the beginning of the year, he was chasing some pitches and as soon as he stopped chasing, he was really good. That’s the case with anybody, though. When you’re not locked in, you sometimes chase. Rick right now already isn’t chasing much. That’s hard to do this early in camp.”
Finally: Braun snapped an 0-for-5 streak to open Cactus League play with a two-run home run to center field to start the seventh inning Thursday.
He’d played in just two game so far this spring, going 0-for-4 with three strikeouts. Braun lined out to Reds center fielder Denis Phipps in the first before smacking Sean Marshall’s 1-0 offering off the batters’ eye to put the Brewers ahead, 3-2.
“We’re making progress,” Braun said.
HIs manager said the home run was a relief for the defending National League MVP.
“He doesn’t like going one game without a hit,” Roenicke said.
Braun will be back in the lineup Friday despite a plan for him to play every other game. He’ll play against the Indians, sit out the split-squad affair Saturday against the Cubs and Mets and play again Sunday when the Brewers host the Rockies at Maryvale.
Playing on consecutive days was necessary for Braun, who didn’t want to miss consecutive games because of an off-day Monday.
“I didn’t want to miss two games (in a row),” Braun said. “Right now, it’s all about timing and getting into a rhythm and getting yourself prepared for opening day.”
Bench battle: Roenicke has some time before he needs to make any kind of decision, but he likes what he’s seen from two players jockeying for a spot on the Brewers’ bench.
Both Brooks Conrad and Travis Ishikawa have gotten off to good starts in camp.
Ishikawa, who signed with the Brewers as a non-roster invitee in December, is hitting .250 (2-for-8) with a home run, two RBI and three runs scored in four games. He’s played well in the field, too, and could be a suitable backup for rookie first baseman Mat Gamel while offering a left-handed bat off the bench.
Conrad, meanwhile, recorded his first hit of the spring Thursday, snapping an 0-for-6 skid, but has proved his worth defensively, playing all over the infield. That he is a switch hitter adds to his appeal for Roenicke, who has been impressed with and appreciates Conrad’s willingness to do whatever it takes to make the team.
“The more versatile a player is, it helps when we’re trying to look at bench players,” Roenicke said. “Unfortunately, you’re looking more at the fact that you need a right-hander and maybe your best player is that lefty, but you’ve already got a couple of lefties on the bench. With a switch hitter, he doesn’t have to worry about that so much.”
Injury report: A number of pitchers are either throwing or getting close to it. Right-hander Mark Rodgers is expected to participate Saturday in the split-squad games while left-hander Jed Bradley and Cody Scarpetta threw live batting practice Thursday.
Brandon Kintzler threw a bullpen session Wednesday, but Zach Braddock will miss one more day to let a blister on his hand heal.
“We were thinking about throwing him tomorrow, but (pitching coach) Rick (Kranitz) may feel better waiting until the 10th to throw him.”
He said it: “The umpire (Bob Davidson) came over and said, ‘Zack’s ready,’ meaning that his pitches were really good.” – Roenicke, on Zack Greinke’s performance Thursday against Cincinnati.
On deck: The Cleveland Indians will visit Maryvale Baseball Park on Friday. Randy Wolf (0-0, 0.00 ERA) faces right-hander Derek Lowe (0-0, 0.00) at 2 p.m. CT.