Rickie Weeks Jr. has only been with the Durham Bulls for less than a week but in his two games so far, he’s shown a quick bat and a bit of power.
Weeks, who is working his way back from a shoulder injury, joined the Bulls on Wednesday after being assigned by the Tampa Bay Rays for a rehabilitation stint. He went 1-for-3 and scored a run in his debut against the Indianapolis Indians and on Thursday against the Lehigh Valley IronPigs, he was 1-for-2 with a two-run home run and a pair of walks.
His home run came in a losing cause, but it did give the Bulls a chance to overcome a sloppy start against Lehigh Valley. The Bulls were down 3-0 when hit his home run over the right field field to make it 3-2. Unfortunately, the Bulls never got closer before finally falling 12-6.
Bulls manager Jared Sandberg said Weeks’ home run was a good sign.
“Any time you see a right-handed hitter go the opposite way in this ballpark, it’s pretty impressive,” Sandberg said. “He’s a strong human being and he has a quick bat. It doesn’t surprise me he was able to do that. It was a big swing of the bat.”
Weeks, 34, downplayed the home run, saying he is trying to be patient with rehab.
“It was one of those things where I’m trying to get my timing down and seeing the ball in the zone,” Weeks said. “I didn’t want to do too much with it. A lot of times when you’re coming back, you feel quick, you feel strong but you want to make sure you stay with the ball. That’s all I did.”
Before Wednesday’s game, it was just over a month since his last game action on June 6 against the Chicago White Sox when he was in the lineup for the Rays. Weeks has been platooning at first base this season and had appeared in 37 games before his shoulder acted up. It was diagnosed as an impingement in his right shoulder and the Rays placed Weeks on the 10-day disabled list.
He started at first base on Wednesday and played four innings. Thursday, he was the designated hitter. He said he feels good getting back on the field.
“The stamina is there,” Weeks said. “It’s the bumps and bruises that you’ve got to get through. It’s like spring training all over again. I feel good, though. I am just trying to get some good at-bats. I’ll play some first base and go from there. I’ve been around for a while now and this is just part of the baseball grind.”
Sandberg said Weeks’ first two games were a lot like what he saw from him in spring training.
Weeks was hitting a modest .216 for the Rays before his injury.
“My look at him in spring training was impressive,” Sandberg said. “The season in the big leagues didn’t start off that great for him so it is good for him to be with us to get his timing and rhythm back and hands going again. He can offer the major league team a lot going forward.”
Weeks has always demonstrated a good eye for hitting. He led the NCAA in batting average two years in a row when he was at Southern in the early 2000s. When he finished there, his .465 career average was the highest in the NCAA. In 2003, he was named Baseball America College Player of the Year and won the Golden Spikes Award.
He was selected No. 2 overall in the 2003 draft by the Milwaukee Brewers. In 2011, he was voted by the fans to be the starting second baseman for the National League in the All-Star Game. He’s also been with the Seattle Mariners in 2015 and the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2016 before signing with the Rays this spring.
Weeks, who was born in Altamonte Springs, Florida, comes from a baseball family, too.
His father, Richard, played college baseball for Seton Hall and Stetson. His grandfather was an outfielder in the Negro Leagues during the 1940s. And his younger brother Jemile is an infielder in the Chicago Cubs organization and is currently with their Triple-A affiliate in Iowa.