Ailene Voisin, sports columnist
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  • Paul Kitagaki Jr. / pkitagaki@sacbee.com

    Paul Kitagaki Jr. pkitagaki@sacbee.com Jemile Weeks gets ready to slap manager Darren Bush's hand after his solo home run in the third inning. The homer gave the River Cats a 1-0 playoff win over Reno.

  • Ailene Voisin

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  • JEMILE WEEKS' KEY STATISTICS

    WITH A'S IN 2011

    • At-bats: 406

    • Batting avg: .303

    • Home runs: 2

    • RBIs: 36

    • On-base pct.: .340

    • Walks: 21

    • Steals: 22

    WITH A'S IN 2012

    • At-bats: 437

    • Batting avg: .220

    • Home runs: 2

    • RBIs: 20

    • On-base pct.: .305

    • Walks: 50

    • Steals: 15

  • SERIES SCHEDULE

    SERIES TIED 1-1

    (All games air on 650; *if necessary)

    Game 1: Reno 3, River Cats 1

    Game 2: River Cats 1, Reno 0

    Today: at Reno, 7:05 p.m.

    *Saturday: at Reno, 7:05 p.m.

    *Sunday: at Reno, 1:05 p.m.

Ailene Voisin: River Cats' Weeks still believes he's a star

Published: Friday, Sep. 7, 2012 - 12:00 am | Page 1C
Last Modified: Tuesday, Dec. 18, 2012 - 12:09 am

Jemile Weeks didn't stick around to hear the details. He knew what was wrong. He wasn't hitting, wasn't getting on base, wasn't keeping the ball on the ground, wasn't a constant irritant on the basepath.

In this most surprising of A's seasons, he wasn't close to being the second baseman whose performance last summer prompted the Mark Ellis trade to Colorado.

The job was Ellis'. And then it wasn't. And now Weeks is in the playoffs with the River Cats, trying to recapture a style that not long ago was effective and wildly entertaining.

"Do I feel I could still be in the major leagues and be productive?" said Weeks, who drilled a solo home run Thursday night that gave the River Cats a 1-0 playoff victory over the Reno Aces. "Absolutely. Do I feel what I've done down here I can do up there (in Oakland)? Absolutely. But (the A's) made a decision, and I have to respect that. I have to play like I'm trying to get myself back up there."

This Sacramento-to-Oakland and Oakland-to-Sacramento shuttle can be a beast of a roller coaster.

While former River Cats dominate the A's roster, often it's a two-way street, with humbled former big leaguers returning to the cozier confines of Raley Field.

After opening the 2011 season in Sacramento, he was summoned to Oakland on June 7. While his ability to turn a double play remains an ongoing adventure – he is a converted shortstop trying to master the mechanics at second base – he hit .303 and was a constant threat to run.

Except for a stunning dip in numbers and an inordinate number of fly-ball outs, he hasn't changed much. His dreadlocks still bounce loosely underneath his helmet when he runs. His fashionably baggy uniform still conceals an athletic, deceptively muscular 5-foot-9, 160-pound frame.

Weeks' physical stature and lack of strength, however, make it imperative that he hit balls on the ground and utilize speed as an offensive weapon, neither of which he was doing this season in Oakland. Besides hitting .220, his on-base percentage had dipped to .305, second lowest in the American League among regulars.

"The outs he made were more in the air, where last year it seemed like balls were driven down, at a down angle," A's scouting director Keith Lieppman said Thursday night. "Seeing the explosive game that he brought to the big leagues … that's still in him. It's just (a matter of) being able to get that out."

River Cats manager Darren Bush is preaching consistency. Same swing. Same mental approach at the plate. Same routine on the field. Same habits that led to a .321 average during his first stint with the River Cats.

"Every player has to learn that you can't just go out there and try to do something different every day to find that 'ah-ha' moment," Bush said. "When you have a clouded vision, your body just does not respond the way it should. Jemile started putting pressure on himself, and then it started snowballing. But he's an extremely good player. He just needs to get his confidence back."

Though immensely disappointed he wasn't called up when major league rosters expanded, Weeks is upbeat, engaging, professional. And he offers no excuses. With a hint of defiance and repeated proclamations that he is "going to be a star in this league before it's all over," the A's 2008 first-round draft choice acknowledged that his sagging statistics accurately reflect his struggles.

"When BoMel (Bob Melvin) told me I was going down, I didn't really want too much information," said Weeks, who hit .333 with a .412 on-base percentage in the River Cats' final 10 regular-season games but went 0 for 5 in Wednesday's 3-1 loss to Reno in the playoff opener. "I wasn't pleased with my own performance. This is the first time I've gone through anything like this, and the amount of failure you deal with can get frustrating. I pushed the panic button. Now I just want to focus on my hitting, on making good, solid contact. Then, I'll become the player everyone believes I can become."

© Copyright The Sacramento Bee. All rights reserved.

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Ailene Voisin, sports columnist

Ailene Voisin

Ailene Voisin was born in Brooklyn, N.Y. She earned a bachelor's degree in political science from UNLV and a law degree from the University of San Diego before committing full time to journalism.

Her career includes stops at the San Diego Union, Los Angeles Herald-Examiner and Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and time spent as the backup beat writer for Dodgers and Angels, Clippers and NBA beat writer, sports columnist, along with numerous assignments covering international events and the Olympics. Ailene joined The Sacramento Bee in 1997.

Email: avoisin@sacbee.com
Phone: 916-321-1208
Twitter: @ailene_voisin

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