Brewers rely on Weeks for leadership, toughness
"There's always different personalities on the team, whether it's toughness or whatever it is that you hear about," Roenicke said. "I heard a lot about Rickie and what he does."
Roenicke, who starts his second year of leading the Brewers, saw first hand how tough Weeks was when the second baseman got hurt running to first in a game against the Chicago Cubs in July. Weeks severely sprained his left ankle when he awkwardly hit the bag.
Clinging to a 1½-game lead in the NL Central and Weeks out, Milwaukee acquired Jerry Hairston Jr. from the Washington Nationals for a minor-leaguer. Hairston, a versatile veteran infielder, helped cover second along with Craig Counsell and Taylor Green.
Weeks was on the 15-day disabled list from July 28 to Sept. 7. When he returned for the stretch run, the lead was 8½ games.
He walked as a pinch-hitter in his first game back on Sept. 10 after missing 39 games. The next day, he started at second as the Brewers closed out a two-game series against the Philadelphia Phillies.
"It was no secret," he said. "Of course, I was hurt, but you've got to provide for your team. I wanted to be out there and help my team win anyway possible."
Before the injury, he batted .272 with 19 homers, 43 RBIs and nine stolen bases. After returning, he hit .243 with one home run, six RBIs and no stolen bases.
"Whether it was just the ankle or just missing that period of time when he came back, offensively, he wasn't the same guy," Roenicke said. "It was probably a combination of both."
Even with an injured ankle, having Weeks back allowed Roenicke to adjust his batting order and slide Hairston to third where he replaced the slumping Casey McGehee.
"This is a tough guy," Roenicke said. "This is a tough guy that really wants to win. He knows that when he's out there, regardless if he's 100 percent or not, he feels it gives our team a better chance to win."
Playing through pain is nothing new to Weeks, whose only full season avoiding the disabled list was 2010.
The second pick overall in the 2003 draft has had a variety of injuries to his right wrist (2006, 2007), a sprained left knee (2008) and a left wrist injury (2009).
His ankle still isn't back to where it was, and might never be perfect.
"Anytime you sprain an ankle that bad, it's never the same," said Roenicke, who had the same type of injury as a major leaguer in the 1980s. "Once you stretch out that ligament, it's not the same."
However, he is encouraged by how Weeks has been playing during spring training.
"I don't expect it to slow him down at all," Roenicke said. "I not planning on reigning him back at all."
Weeks agreed with that assessment.
"It's all right, it's all right," he said. "It's not 100 percent. I'm still doing everything full speed, nothing's holding me back. I just need to strengthen it. I still have a lot of scare issue built up in there. If the season started today, I'm still going to be ready."
His toughness on the field carries into the locker room, where he shows quiet leadership.
"Rickie is not very vocal to the team," Roenicke said. "But, when Rickie is vocal, the guys respond. When he tells somebody that's enough, that's it. That's enough. It's different when it comes from a guy who's respected as much as Rickie."
Weeks won't tolerate complainers or whiners, but the only people who know that are the players.
"Sometimes you have to speak up and say something," he said. "I'm not going to be in front of the media and say something about another player. Behind closed doors, I got to do what I got to do.
"I don't sugar coat anything. When things have to be said, things have to be said. Whether it's good or bad, sometimes people have to hear it."
Roenicke said that a team needs guys such as that.
"We can tell them, but as a staff, you can tell them over and over," he said. "It's different when it comes from one of their peers."