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Get to Know the O's: Weeks in tight race for second base job

Get to Know the O's: Weeks in tight race for second base job
Orioles infielder Jemile Weeks participates in the team's first full squad workout of spring training in Sarasota, Fla. Feb. 19. (ap file photo, Carroll County Times)

Every Monday through the end of spring training, Times staff writer Jake Rill will write about one of the new players that the Baltimore Orioles have acquired this offseason.

Jemile Weeks was a first-round draft pick that quickly lived up to his potential, hitting .303 in 97 games in 2011, his first season in the major leagues with the Oakland Athletics.

Then, he had quite the dropoff. In 118 games in 2012, he hit .221. In 2013, he only played eight games in the major leagues and had just an average season for Class-AAA Sacramento.

That led to Weeks being traded to the Baltimore Orioles, when they moved All-Star closer Jim Johnson to Oakland.

"Where you're going or where your career is headed and your path of life changed in the blink of an eye," Weeks said at Orioles FanFest. "I'm excited. I like it."

The Orioles will really like it if Weeks turns back into the player who had tremendous success his first season with the A's.

For the first time since 2000, Baltimore won't have Brian Roberts on their roster when Opening Day comes on March 31. That leaves several candidates to battle for a starting job throughout spring training.

The second basemen in the Orioles' camp are Ryan Flaherty, Alexi Casilla, Jonathan Schoop, and Weeks, a former No. 12 overall pick and brother of former Milwaukee Brewers second baseman Rickie Weeks.

"The opportunity here is great," Weeks said.

"And I feel like going forward that if everything goes well with this team, I'll jell and mesh well with this team as well."

But if Weeks wants to earn that job at second base, or just a spot on Baltimore's 25-man roster that breaks camp, he'll need to play like he did in 2011, when he hit .303, drove in 36 runs, and stole 22 bases.

"I brought speed, I brought energy, I brought hard-nosed baseball," Weeks said. "I brought myself, and that's what I want to get back to being able to do."

The past two seasons, Weeks said he was told to try to improve some facets of his game to make him an even better player. Instead, he regressed and was unable to even contribute in the majors last season.

"I've come to learn that you are who you are in this game," Weeks said. "Whoever you are, that's why they drafted you, that's why they paid for you. You've got to be that player."

Weeks has gotten off to a strong start this spring. He singled and walked in an intrasquad game Thursday. Then, in the Orioles' Grapefruit League game against the Tampa Bay Rays Friday, he doubled, walked, stole a base, and scored two runs.

Although Weeks is likely competing for a role as a second baseman, he has experience at shortstop and the outfield as well.

Whatever role Weeks does end up filling, he said he's excited to be a member of a new organization and has high expectations for the Orioles this season.

"You shouldn't speak anything less than a championship," Weeks said. "And I think this team has already proven in recent years that they're already playoff contenders and playoff eligible. So never sell yourself too short."

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