SARASOTA, Fla. — Jemile Weeks could be the piece that the Baltimore Orioles are looking for to make a run at a division title in 2014.
After finishing third in the notoriously tough American League East a season ago, the Orioles were one of the busiest teams in baseball this offseason.
In a lineup full of power hitters such as Chris Davis, Adam Jones and Matt Wieters, Weeks brings valuable speed necessary to capitalize on the production from the big bats in the heart of the order.
“I feel like I can strongly contribute on the offensive side,” Weeks said, sitting at a table in the team’s spring training dining room in Sarasota. “The speed is definitely going to be one of my bigger things. Stealing bases, getting in scoring position, and scoring a lot of runs.”
A season ago, as a member of the Sacramento River Cats, Oakland’s triple-A affiliate, Weeks finished with a .376 on-base percentage, and 17 steals in 19 attempts.
The former first-round pick out of the University of Miami will also bolster an already exceptional Orioles defensive unit.
Weeks has tremendous range at second base and is working on his efficiency this spring training to ensure that he is able to make every play possible in the field. Additionally, having spent time at shortstop and in the outfield, the former Oakland Athletic possesses a valuable tool for any major leaguer – versatility.
“I ended up playing two games in centre field last year in Oakland,” Weeks said. “Shortstop is the one thing I haven’t accomplished, but I feel really comfortable over there. I tried it last year and the experiment went pretty well. It would be something I’m open to down the road.”
Moving from a title-contending team in Oakland to another potential playoff team in Baltimore has been a smooth transition for the switch-hitting Weeks.
Entering spring training, the 27-year old had pre-existing friendships with a handful of teammates, including Julio Borbon and Tommy Hunter. Additionally, Alex Gonzalez and J.J. Hardy have played with Jemile’s older brother Rickie of the Milwaukee Brewers.
“The baseball world becomes small. The longer you play, the smaller it becomes,” Weeks said. “There were a few guys I was comfortable with coming in, and then the team formed and meshed well together.”
Also easing in the transition is the location of the Orioles’ spring training facilities.
Playing with the Athletics, Weeks spent his first three spring training camps in Phoenix, AZ. Being in Sarasota with the Orioles has allowed Weeks to feel more at ease.
“It’s different for me, but in a positive way,” said Weeks. “Family is close by, and things are more familiar for me. Being with a new team in a place that I’m somewhat comfortable in, I think it takes away that jittery edge.”