BALTIMORE (AP) — Jemile Weeks endured a month of bus rides in the minor leagues and a futile trip to Yankee Stadium before finally making his debut with the Baltimore Orioles.
Now that he’s back in the majors, Weeks is playing as if he intends to stay.
Since his arrival at Camden Yards on Saturday, the diminutive 27-year-old has twice batted in the leadoff shot, going 3 for 8 with a triple and scoring two runs.
His most notable contribution, however, was a 40-foot dribbler down the third-base line.
With runners at first and second and no outs in the 10th inning against Kansas City on Saturday night, the switch-hitting Weeks laid down a sacrifice bunt from the left side. Royals pitcher Danny Duffy rushed his throw in an effort to get the speedy Weeks at first base, and the misfire loaded the bases to set up the game-winning hit by Nick Markakis.
“When you make professional athletes play the game at a pace they’re not used to, in any sport, that’s where the mistakes happen,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. “He makes people want to know where he is, what he’s doing, what he’s getting ready to do.”
Weeks is a perfect fit in a batting order filled with power hitters.
“We have a few guys that can steal some bases here and there, but Weeks is definitely a guy pitchers are going to worry about every time he gets on base,” catcher Matt Wieters said.
Weeks was obtained in the December trade that sent closer Jim Johnson to Oakland. Although the deal was perceived to be nothing more than a salary dump by the Orioles, Weeks batted .303 with 22 steals over 97 games for the Athletics in 2011.
After he struggled in 2012 and spent the majority of the 2013 season in Oakland’s minor league system, Weeks viewed the trade to Baltimore as a chance to get a fresh start.
“It’s a lineup that I wanted to be a part of,” he said. “I always felt like if I could jump in there and do my part, I could help.”
But after batting .171 in spring training, he was sent to Triple-A Norfolk.
During the second week of April, Weeks was told to get to Yankee Stadium as a possible replacement for David Lough, who was experiencing symptoms of a concussion. But Lough avoided the disabled list, and Weeks made a U-turn back to Norfolk.
“I came up obviously with the mindset that if they put me in the lineup, I’ll be ready,” Weeks said. “I got sent back really quick. But at the same time, I was grateful for the opportunity. It showed me that they had their eyes on me.”
Opportunity knocked again after Chris Davis left Friday night’s game against Kansas City with a strained oblique. Weeks singled in his first at-bat Saturday night, added a triple and capped his memorable night with pivotal bunt.
“Once they gave me the call, it was a good feeling of excitement to be able to come back to the major leagues and actually be a part of team this time,” Weeks said.
“If you’re going to be here, you want to contribute. For me to be able to come out here and lead off, and for Buck to have that confidence in me, that meant a lot,” he said.
Weeks was the designated hitter in both games, but that doesn’t mean he can’t do his part defensively. Although he’s a second baseman by trade, he also played left field and center while with Norfolk.
For now, the Orioles like his ability to get on base and the potential to do something once he gets there.
Baltimore closer Tommy Hunter, a teammate of Weeks on the 2006 Team USA squad, said, “The guy can handle the bat. He’s fast. A little sparkplug. He’s going to play well for this team. We’re just waiting to see a steady dose of him.”
(Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)