MILWAUKEE -- They were the three hits -- and a walk -- heard 'round Wisconsin, the first signs, the Brewers hope, of second baseman Rickie Weeks snapping out of his ugly early-season slump.
Weeks' three hits produced a career-high five RBIs in the Brewers' 12-8 win over the Pirates on Tuesday night, one more RBI than he'd amassed in the team's first 24 games. In one game, he had nearly half as many hits as he'd collected in his previous 82 plate appearances over 20 games (7-for-72).
And it all started six and a half hours before the game, when Weeks called Brewers hitting coach Johnny Narron to the batting cage.
"I wanted to kill myself in the cage, basically," Weeks said.
Weeks, who went 0-for-3 with a walk on Wednesday, will take early batting practice from time to time, but this, he said, was different. A player famous for his even keel made the very rare admission Tuesday night that he'd been feeling frustrated by his poor results at the plate.
Weeks said he had been seeing the ball just fine, but was struggling because of poor timing. So he hit the cage with Narron to swing, swing and swing some more.
"I wanted to punish myself, really," Weeks said. "I guess it worked. … When your timing is off, things speed up and you get overanxious. I think the biggest thing for me was just going out there and play my game.
"I was frustrated, obviously. You don't want to be in a position like that, but it wasn't to the point where I was going to go out there and do anything drastic. You have to stay within yourself. It's real early. You have to find an even keel and try to go out there and do your job."
He walked and scored against Pirates starter James McDonald in the Brewers' three-run second inning, doubled and scored a go-ahead run in the third, singled home two more runs with two outs in the fourth and then extended the Brewers' late lead by belting a three-run opposite-field home run off Tony Watson in the eighth.
Now, the question is whether Weeks can sustain that success. He downplayed the notion that one game represented the end of his early-season struggles, but said it sure beat the alternative.
"You're always going to have your ups and downs. I hope I don't go through a stretch like I did, but you are going to have a stretch like that -- hopefully a smaller stretch," he said. "Just for me, I think the sky's the limit now. I need to keep working hard, that's all I can say."
He added: "I feel pretty good about myself going forward."
Betancourt to shift to first to stay in lineup
MILWAUKEE -- Yuniesky Betancourt will shift to everyday first base duty when Aramis Ramirez returns from the disabled list, manager Ron Roenicke said Wednesday.
Ramirez is due back Friday, and Betancourt is getting the nod to remain in the starting lineup over fellow veteran Alex Gonzalez, who was Milwaukee's Opening Day first baseman but has not been as productive at the plate. Gonzalez hit .175 in April with a home run and five RBIs, compared to Betancourt's .280 average, six home runs and 21 RBIs in the month. Betancourt tied Ryan Braun for the team lead in RBIs and finished one shy of Braun in homers.
On Wednesday, Betancourt homered for the third straight day, going back-to-back with Carlos Gomez for his seventh homer and 22nd RBI.
"I think the production he's had so far and what he's done, he certainly deserves most of the playing time," Roenicke said of Betancourt.
Gonzalez will return to a utility role, and probably play some third base as the Brewers work Ramirez back into everyday play.
Betancourt came to the Brewers late in Spring Training expecting to play off the bench, but was thrust into everyday duty when Ramirez sprained his left knee on April 5.
"I didn't have expectations. I just worked hard," Betancourt said. "When I signed, I didn't know I would play a lot. I'm happy that I helped the team win."
Schafer's role more than just hitting
MILWAUKEE -- Rookie reserve outfielder Logan Schafer's April batting average did not stand out, but he helped the Brewers win in other ways, manager Ron Roenicke argued.
"He's still playing the good defense, and he can go in and bunt, but the hitting part, it's difficult, and I knew it would be," Roenicke said. "I didn't know how much playing time I could give him out there. Certainly, the more times I can start him, I think he'll be fine in this role."
Schafer, the 11th ranked prospect in the Brewers' system, was 4-for-25 (.160) in April, including 3-for-11 as a pinch-hitter. His lone RBI came on a perfectly-executed squeeze bunt on April 20 against the Cubs.
"The good thing about him in this role is he has a lot of plusses, and even if he's not hitting, he still can help us in what we need to do," Roenicke said. "Other guys, they only have one plus. Maybe they're a good hitter, and so they need to hit. Maybe they're good defensively, so they need to play great defense. But Logan, he's capable of doing a lot of different things to help us. If he was just a hitter, I'd have to think about, 'Well, what are we doing here.'
"But because he's so good defensively, because I can put him in as a pinch-runner, because I can put him in and use him as a pinch-bunter, he still has, I think, a lot of value to us. And hopefully I'll get him enough at-bats so he can swing it better."
Finding at-bats in the Brewers' outfield is a challenge, with left fielder Ryan Braun and center fielder Carlos Gomez playing every day, and right fielder Norichika Aoki only taking the occasional day off. One of those days was Wednesday, when Aoki sat amid a 9-for 59 (.153) funk. Schafer hit leadoff, and went 0-for-4 with a walk.
Roenicke to run regardless of score
MILWAUKEE -- Brewers manager Ron Roenicke did not care that Pirates catcher Russell Martin appeared perturbed by Carlos Gomez stealing second and third base in the eighth inning on Tuesday with the Brewers ahead, 12-8. Gomez had been hit by a pitch after Rickie Weeks belted a three-run home run.
"I think Russell was screaming all game," Roenicke said. "I don't know what he was yelling. … That's the old kind of school -- it's five runs -- you can keep running until you're up more than five runs, then you stop. Today's game is way more than just five runs. It's not safe anymore. There's a lot more runs score.
"I'm a new-school guy, definitely. I'm not going to try to embarrass anybody, but if it's in the sixth, seventh inning and we're up five, we're running. I don't want to have [relievers Jim] Henderson and [John] Axford up every day. It makes no sense. You try to get enough runs so you don't have to get up your closer.
"I'm concerned about this team more than I'm concerned about the other team and how they feel about things. If running is part of our game and we score more because of it, we're going to run."
On the Brewers' last homestand, Gomez was running with the Brewers ahead by six runs in the sixth inning against Matt Cain and the Giants, and Roenicke offered a similar argument for it.
The Brewers stole four bases in Wednesday's loss to Pittsburgh to up their total to 24 on the season.
Davis optioned to Triple-A Nashville
MILWAUKEE -- The Brewers' Spring Training MVP was sent back to the Minor Leagues on Wednesday to brush off the cobwebs.
Outfielder Khris Davis won an Opening Day roster spot by belting six Cactus League homers but was limited to 16 at-bats in the Brewers' first 26 regular season games, so they optioned him to Triple-A Nashville to resume playing every day.
"It's bittersweet, but they make the moves," said Davis, who hit .188 in his brief big league debut. "They explained the situation, and the role I was in is tough. I see why. I haven't faced a lot of these cats, and when vets get this job, it's a little easier because they have been around. You put a lot of pressure on yourself. It's hard to just take it for what it is."
The Brewers still envision a bright future for Davis, who is the 15th ranked Brewers prospect. He is expected to join the Nashville Sounds on Friday in Round Rock, Tex.
• Shortstop Jean Segura and right-hander Kyle Lohse were named the Brewers' player and pitcher of the month for April in a vote of team executives, broadcasters and beat reporters.
Segura hit safely in 19 of his 24 games, and led the team and ranked second in the National League with a .367 batting average and seven stolen bases. He was fifth in the league with a .418 on-base percentage. On Wednesday, he went 1-for-5 with an RBI single and run scored.
"He's a great player," Betancourt said of Segura. "Good hands, good running, good hitter. I think he's going to be an All-Star."
Lohse had a 2.53 ERA in five April starts.