PHOENIX -- Sixty-three pitchers and catchers began reporting to the Brewers' Minor League complex on Tuesday for the start of Spring Training, offering right-hander Wily Peralta an opportunity to reflect on his own nervous arrival eight years ago.
Peralta signed as a 16-year-old with the Brewers in 2005, during a period that the club did not operate an academy in the Dominican Republic for young Latin American prospects. Instead, the Brewers invested those dollars in higher-profile players and imported them directly to the U.S.
For Peralta, the culture shock proved problematic.
"Oh, man, the first day was tough," he said after pitching three scoreless innings against the A's. "I remember the Brewers had a translator waiting for us at the airport, and he had to take us to buy food and everything. I didn't know how to say anything [in English]. I didn't even know how to say hello.
"We had 8-10 guys, and nobody spoke any English. That was really, really tough for us. You had to learn the language and you had to learn baseball. I remember the first time doing PFP [pitchers' fielding practice] and I was like, 'PFP? What's that?' They would say, 'Third! First!' You had to back up the base. I made sure I was never the first to do it, because I wanted to see the American guys do it first."
In 2009, the Brewers returned to an academy in the Dominican Republic, where players are schooled in English, culture and baseball alike. Still, Peralta makes a point to mentor young Latin American prospects making the leap to the U.S. They stay in a hotel adjacent to Brewers Major Leaguers during Spring Training.
"I talk to them, try to call and hang out with them and just see if they have any questions for me," Peralta said. "I ask them questions, too. We're always talking about baseball."
For Weeks, small change netting big results
PHOENIX -- Rickie Weeks has made some long-debated adjustments to his batting stance, and Brewers manager Ron Roenicke loves the early results.
"Geez, he's killing the baseball," Roenicke said Tuesday morning, before Weeks manned second base against the A's. "I hope he continues it. When he's swinging the bat like this, he is really fun to watch."
Because he arrived amid such high expectations after the Brewers made Weeks the second overall pick in the 2003 Draft, Weeks' batting stance has long been the focus of debate. Throughout his career he has held his hands particularly low, and has waggled the bat like Gary Sheffield.
Through hand injuries, productive seasons and otherwise, Weeks mostly remained consistent in his stance. Now, after batting .230 in 2012 and .209 in 2013, the waggle is still there but Weeks altered the position of his hands with offseason input from Nate Oliver, a former coach in Milwaukee's Minor League system.
"Keeping things smooth, really," Weeks said when asked to describe the tweak. "If you keep it smooth, everything kind of falls into place. The biggest thing is slowing down. My hands are a tad bit higher. It's a minute [difference]."
So minute that it is difficult to see with the naked eye. But Roenicke believes the adjustment is significant.
"As you get older, you learn to do different things," Roenicke said. "I think sometimes you just realize that, 'I'm not successful in this and I've got to make some improvements.' Sometimes it's with stance, sometimes it's your thinking that changes. He's made some adjustments, and right now, it looks really good."
Weeks is 4-for-9 with a home run and four walks in his first four spring games. On Tuesday, he led off the game by scalding a line drive to left field, where Yoenis Cespedes made a nice running catch to rob Weeks of an extra-base hit. Weeks drew a walk in each of his next two plate appearances before grounding out in his final plate appearance.
"I feel great," Weeks said. "This is probably the best I've felt in a long time, actually. Stay hungry, I guess."
His hot streak is well-timed. Weeks, set to earn $11 million this season in the final guaranteed year of his contract, is in a battle with 23-year-old Scooter Gennett. When Weeks tore his left hamstring last August and needed surgery, Gennett capitalized, and finished the season batting .324 while playing better-than-advertised defense.
The Brewers say second base is an open competition, and other Major League teams are probably watching. The Brewers could try to trade one of their second basemen later in camp, or they could institute the sort of platoon that was actually working last season before Weeks was hurt.
Weeks is making the decision difficult so far.
"If you guys watch balls come off his bat, it's pretty scary," Roenicke said. "He's one of those rare guys that has that kind of pop that it doesn't matter where he hits it."
• Third baseman Aramis Ramirez, recovering from colon surgery in January, could be playing in Cactus League games by the weekend, Roenicke said.
• Even though Johnny Hellweg pitched the ninth inning against the A's, suffering a blown save while allowing three runs in a 6-4 loss, the Brewers still plan to stretch him out as a starter, Roenicke said.
• The Brewers and Fox Sports Wisconsin on Tuesday unveiled a schedule of 150 high definition telecasts on FS Wisconsin, Fox Sports 1 and the FOX national network. Brian Anderson will continue to serve as the primary play-by-play announcer with newcomer Matt Lepay joining analyst Bill Schroeder in the broadcast booth for select telecasts when Anderson is away on national assignments. Craig Coshun also will serve as play-by-play announcer for select telecasts late in the season while continuing his role as the main host for Brewers Live pregame and postgame shows.