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Rickie Weeks has heard time and time again about how he's slowed down in the field.

The questions and observations are the result of the Milwaukee Brewers' second baseman having spent spring training under the tutelage of new bench coach - and former All-Star second baseman - Willie Randolph, as well as the early returns.

While it was Weeks' run-scoring double and speedy baserunning that ultimately gave the Brewers a 4-3 win over the Chicago Cubs in Milwaukee's home opener Friday at Miller Park, his work in the field was just as vital.

Weeks' most eye-catching play came when he backhanded a sharp grounder up the middle by Cubs third baseman Aramis Ramirez and threw him out to end the seventh inning, stranding two Chicago baserunners.

And Weeks was also a part of two double plays, the second of which he smoothly turned to end the eighth inning and keep the Brewers within a run.

Afterward, Weeks had an observation of his own.

"Honestly, if we didn't talk about slowing down in spring training, y'all would have never even said anything about slowing down," Weeks said. "The biggest thing for me is to just go out there and do it the same way I've been doing, just try to perfect everything really."

Weeks is far from perfect, something Randolph was quick to note.

But he is making progress - as proven by his spring performance, when he committed just one error in 79 total chances (.987 fielding percentage). Since the start of the regular season, Weeks has one error in 25 chances and has helped turn six double plays.

"I was pretty giddy today, because I just love when you make big plays at the right time, at big spots and you could see, even though it was small bites, you could still see where he was starting to get it," said Randolph, who had a .980 fielding percentage in 18 major league seasons with the Pirates, Yankees, Dodgers, A's, Brewers and Mets.

Experience pays off

While Weeks was tired of all the talk about him slowing down after Friday's win, that has been one of Randolph's points of emphasis.

"Rickie's a very aggressive, high-speed individual...," Brewers general manager Doug Melvin said. "Everything he does, he does it hard. That's the way he's been taught. So Willie's helped him try to slow the game down a little bit, where he doesn't have to panic."

Added Randolph: "When you have a good arm and you have good feet, good hands, all the athleticism, then you have a tendency sometimes to think that everything has to be fast motion. And, yeah, you have to be quick, you have to make the play. It's bang-bang, but you can make it bang-bang by just still being (rhythmic) with your motion."

Weeks has always been seen as possessing all those tools since the Brewers selected him with the second overall pick in the 2003 draft. But he's been maddeningly inconsistent since arriving in the big leagues for good in 2005.

Weeks, 26, has had error totals of 21, 22, 13 and 15 in his first four seasons, and his best fielding percentage was the .976 mark he posted in 2007. For his part, Weeks pointed to experience as a major reason for the improvement he's shown so far this year.

"The more you grow in this game, things slow down a little bit more," he said.

Good timing

Randolph echoed that sentiment, questioning how major league-ready Weeks' defense was when he was summoned to Milwaukee.

"Who's to say that when he got here, he was ready?" said Randolph, a former longtime coach with the Yankees who sees defensive similarities between Weeks and ex-Yankees second baseman - and current Cubs left fielder - Alfonso Soriano. "Maybe he wasn't ready. I mean, I would venture to say, not being here, but looking at him, I would say he was very raw.

"And so when I saw him, I said, 'Well OK, I can see if I can tweak some things, refine some things, get him to understand the mentality, kind of playing the infield. Then, once he grasps that, then maybe he can feel what it takes to do all the things. The timing, when to be fast, when to be quick, when to be slow.' "

That timing was something Randolph repeatedly referenced when discussing Weeks. He talked about the rhythm of playing second base and, though it's still very early, it would appear Weeks is starting to move to the beat.

"It helps to be a good athlete, but you still have to feel the rhythm of the position," Randolph said. "And I'm trying to get Rickie to understand there's a clock in defense that you have to dance to. So basically he's starting to feel what we've talked about. He's worked his butt off all spring.

"I'm happy with his progress, but let me just say that, preface it by saying he's got a long way to go and it's going to come, a point in time - hopefully sooner than later - where he's going to really feel what I'm talking about. ... You can talk all you want and you can work all you want, but playing middle infield is a rhythm and it's a cadence ... there's a rhythm to it. And I see where he's starting to find that clock that we're talking about."

Author:Fox Sports
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Added: April 14, 2009

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