PHOENIX — The A's are trying to set new standards at second base and shortstop this Cactus League season, and one game into it, the reviews are good.
One review of second baseman Jemile Weeks was particularly good.
"He's an All-Star second baseman, I know that for a fact," Milwaukee's second baseman said as the Brewers escaped with a 2-1 win over the A's in the Cactus League opener.
The speaker was the Brewers' Rickie Weeks.
"That's my brother," Jemile said after being told of Rickie Weeks' bragging. "That don't count."
It may count for something, since Rickie Weeks was an All-Star in 2011 and knows what it takes.
Jemile was a rising star that same year he debuted with the A's, but fell on hard times in 2012, including a demotion to the minor leagues in the midst of a pennant race in August. Now he's trying to climb back.
"I've been there, we all have," Rickie said. "But he's got a very strong mindset. I tried to help by telling him what I'd gone through."
In addition to his mindset, Jemile Weeks also owns a nasty backhand flip. With Jesse Chavez pitching in the second inning, Jemile broke to his left to make a diving stop of a ball hit sharply by Jean Segura.
Not only did Weeks track the ball down, but he made a dead-reckoning toss to a player with whom he has scant acquaintance, A's shortstop Hiroyuki Nakajima.
If Weeks wins the five-man second base job this spring, he and Nakajima, the import from Japan, will be working together a lot. And on this play, at least, they looked like they were in sync.
"Perfect," was the way Nakajima described the throw from Weeks through an interpreter. Weeks went on faith.
"I had to trust him and throw where I thought he'd be," Weeks said. Nakajima was spot-on, then got off a one-hop throw to first baseman Brandon Moss to complete the double play.
"I thought he looked good, smooth," Oakland manager Bob Melvin said.
"That was a nice little double play when Weeksie made that throw. The double play ball was hit pretty hard."
Melvin gave high marks to the approach of both men at the plate. Weeks doubled in his first at-bat while Nakajima was 0-for-2 with a walk and a strikeout.
"(Nakajima) was not trying to pull homers, he was getting some good looks and taking some pitches," Melvin said. "He's learning the opponent. On first impression, he looked good today."
Nakajima said he was a little nervous, but getting a walk in the top of the first inning and getting a rounder in the bottom of the first erased some of the jitters. Overall he described the ambience as "excellent, fantastic" through an interpreter.
"I feel good to get the first experience," Nakajima said. "It was good to see live pitching. The more games I play, the more comfortable it will be."<NO1>