NEW YORK -- A year ago, Jemile Weeks was one of the bright spots on a losing team. Now, he finds himself as a backup on a team deep in the hunt for late October. The second baseman's second season hasn't gone the way he'd hoped, but he's pleased to be part of a contending team.
Weeks, a switch-hitter, has batted just .222 this season, and he's managed to go 107 games without a home run. All but one of those games has come while Weeks has been playing second base, and he's just six games from tying a team record set by former infielder Mike Edwards (113).
The A's optioned Weeks, the 12th-overall selection in the 2008 First-Year Player Draft, to Triple-A Sacramento for a few weeks last month, and he's played in just three games since his return. But Weeks, who batted .303 as a rookie, isn't ready to push the panic button yet.
"My performance level wasn't where I wanted it. It wasn't where the team wanted it," he said. "You learn from it and you move on. You either get tougher from the grind or it breaks you down. I understand what I've got to do at this point and I don't feel pressure that I'm not the player I know I am."
The A's don't expect power from Weeks, but it would be a nice fringe benefit. The diminutive infielder went 90 games without a homer last season, and he's had two homers in each of his first two seasons. Now, with his demotion behind him, Oakland wants Weeks to get back to basics.
"He was fine about it. He understands," said manager Bob Melvin. "And I think it gave him a little bit of a break to not have to grind the way he was doing so much. Take a step back, [get] some perspective, and not have to play under the kind of pressure that he did here. You know what? There are bumps in the road in everybody's career, and I think it's going to be a small bump. I think he'll be right back on it next year and doing the things we expect him to do. And that he expects himself to do."
Weeks, the younger brother of Milwaukee regular Rickie Weeks, said that his family has been a great resource for him his whole life. But a moment later, he said that he doesn't necessarily call his brother after a difficult game, and he doesn't expect Rickie to start calling him after an 0-for-5 either.
"We're not the sympathetic types," said Weeks. "We understand the grind of the season and that every day isn't going to be your best day. You just go out there and you put your best on the field. We don't have to tell each other to do that. You just do it and you see what you come up with."
Record number of strikeouts a result of A's youth
NEW YORK -- An era ago, it would've been a telltale sign of futility. Now, it's just another stat that comes out in the wash. The A's are thriving in the second half despite striking out more often than any of their peers, and they have a chance to set the all-time American League record for strikeouts.
Oakland has already whiffed a franchise-record 1,288 times and can set the all-time league mark by striking out 36 times in their final 11 games. And if the recent returns are any indication, they might do it going away, as the A's struck out 100 times in their last nine games alone.
Oakland manager Bob Melvin said Saturday that his team can live with the strikeouts as long as it's hitting for power, and Oakland has had success in that regard this season. Entering Saturday, the A's were second in the AL in homers (90) and tied for second with 318 runs scored since the All-Star break. They then hit four homers and scored nine runs in a 14-inning loss.
"We're aware that we do strike out from time to time," said Melvin in response to a question about the league record. "But we don't solely rely on the homer. Especially when Coco [Crisp] is in the lineup, we do steal some bases. We haven't as much as we were earlier in the season based on the fact that we are hitting homers now. We want to make sure that when we run, it's the proper time to run."
Crisp has been sidelined by a case of pinkeye the last few days, and Melvin said he's uncertain when the veteran outfielder will be able to get back in the lineup. The A's will continue to grind out games with one of the youngest rosters in the league over the final two weeks of the regular season.
Oakland has used 18 rookies this season -- second in the Majors to the Cubs (20) -- and currently has 14 first-year players on the roster. But Melvin prefers to stress the positives, and he knows that his team is in contention despite its strikeout problems and because of its resiliency at the plate.
"It's something we're going to try to get better at," he said. "We do have quite a few guys -- and quite a few younger guys -- that are striking out, but I don't think it's been something psychological that has bothered us to where it's affecting how we play. It's just something we're living with, and every team has some deficiencies. That's ours right now, but we'll continue to stay positive and work around it."
Slumping Reddick 'trying too hard'
NEW YORK -- If Josh Reddick's pressing, he's not alone.
Oakland manager Bob Melvin talked about his right fielder's offensive struggles on Saturday morning, and he came to the conclusion that Reddick is trying too hard down the stretch. Reddick, who leads the A's with 29 home runs, batted just .145 (12-for-83) with six RBIs in his last 20 games.
"He's been so good for us all year offensively and defensively," said Melvin. "Now you get down to where you're semi-close to the season's end, and I think he's maybe trying to do a little bit too much. It certainly isn't for lack of confidence. He's trying too hard. Sometimes, you've got to step back."
Reddick has hit in the third spot of the batting order 133 times for the A's this season, but Melvin has experimented with dropping him lower in the order. The youngster struck out four times in Friday's series opener, and Melvin slotted him in the sixth spot Saturday for the fifth time this season. Reddick finished 0-for-7 with a strikeout and a couple of lineouts in Saturday's 14-inning loss.
Yoenis Cespedes hit his 20th homer Saturday, marking the first time Oakland has had two players with 20 home runs since 2007. Reddick, too, might well be pressing to reach 30 homers.
"Nine's a big number in this game, whether it's .299 or 29 [home runs]. Whether it's nine wins or 19 wins," said Melvin of milestone stats. "There's a lot to the big, round numbers and I think you can't help but know where you are as far as that goes. Sometimes, that's in there a little bit. But it's certainly not his focal point and what he's thinking about right now. He just wants to help his team win."
Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.