PHOENIX (AP) — Rickie Weeks had been at his locker for just a few seconds for the first time this spring when his Milwaukee Brewers teammates started to greet him with handshakes and pats on the back.
He had returned, finally, after a left hamstring injury ended his 2013 season in August, though he is no longer the guaranteed starter at second base. Scooter Gennett seized the opportunity at second and hit .324 down the stretch of his rookie season after Weeks went down.
"We'll let it play out and, you know, the scenarios that we have, I think they're pretty good, and so we're not sure exactly how it's going to go," manager Ron Roenicke said Wednesday. "You know Rick needs to be bounce back and be the same Rickie."
That would be the career .247 hitter who's usually a lock for 20 home runs, along with a solid veteran clubhouse presence.
"He's got your back. He plays the game the right way," the 23-year-old Gennett said. "Not only is he a good player, he's a good guy, and he made things very comfortable for me. I'm thankful for that."
Gennett's locker is just around a corner from the one belonging to Weeks in a section dominated by the top position players. They embraced and said "hellos" after Gennett spotted Weeks across the clubhouse.
Soon enough, they'll be tangled in what Gennett considered an open competition for the second base job.
"Absolutely. I've got a job to do and whatever they tell me to do, I'm going to do it. It's healthy, it's always a good thing," said Gennett, who finished with six homers and 21 RBIs in 213 at-bats but just 10 walks.
The 31-year-old Weeks said he is a full go now after an extensive rehab process following the surgery last season.
"The only setback I probably had was I started out too early, too fast. You know me — I wanted to go out there and run right off," Weeks said. Instead, he was slowed initially after some scar tissue had broken up.
He didn't watch from home while Gennett made his impressive bid for the long-term second base job, though he did keep up with the box scores.
Now, he'll be watching a lot.
Weeks hadn't spoken to Roenicke or general manager Doug Melvin at camp yet as of his arrival Wednesday morning. Weeks and Gennett were on the roster at the same time for a period last season, and Roenicke can forsee a scenario where both could get playing time, especially with Milwaukee scheduled to visit the Red Sox for an interleague matchup the second series of the year.
Weeks harkens back to when he was first given the job at second. After playing 90-plus games in 2005 and 2006, Weeks started at least 111 at the position for five of the next seasons until his breakdown last year.
"When you're young and they tell you certain things, I don't care who you are," Weeks said. "You're not focused on, 'That's my position,' when they tell you that you have to battle for something."
As for Gennett, Roenicke said he'll also have plenty of opportunities to get ready.
"But I'm not going to come out either way and say, 'It's your job.' You know I don't think that's a way to do it right now," Roenicke said. "I don't think that's probably ever a way to do that with a young guy, they need to keep fighting, and that's the reason they got here."
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