By Jim Owczarski Sports Editor Published Aug 27, 2013 at 1:09 PM Photography: David Bernacchi

It wasn’t the typical "welcome to the big leagues" moment one would expect to hear from a rookie, but Milwaukee Brewers second baseman Scooter Gennett knew he was in for something a little different in ninth major league game on June 14 when he faced Bronson Arroyo and the Cincinnati Reds at the Great American Ballpark in Ohio.

In fact, Gennett pulled a home run to deep right off the veteran right-hander in his first at-bat, turning on a sinker down and in.

Then, in his next at-bat, he saw a backdoor slider he sent into the gap for a double. The third at-bat, Arroyo retired him with a changeup. In each contest, the game within the game, Arroyo fired an array of pitches at Gennett, constantly changing his plan of attack.

"He was making adjustments on me and I was able to make adjustments on him and he got me on my last at-bat," Gennett said.

It was a quick lesson of what was to come, especially once Gennett returned to the Brewers after spending most of July in Class AAA Nashville – major league pitchers do their homework, and you rarely see the same thing twice.

"Even within the game, but more when they’re able to sit back and do their homework and see a bunch of video and make those adjustments," Gennett said. "That’s when you really see it."

Despite that early tutorial from Arroyo, Gennett’s first stint with the club wasn’t so much about adjusting as it was about impressing. He was up from June 3-26 to platoon with struggling starter Rickie Weeks, and he recorded an at-bat in 17 games (10 starts). In those 45 plate appearances he hit .214 with a .250 on base percentage. He had three extra base hits and struck out seven times.

"I feel like the first time up, obviously you want to show everybody what you can do," he admitted. "You want all the family and everybody watching, you want to show them what you’re able to do and I feel maybe, at first, I was trying to do a little bit too much rather than just do me.

Recalled on July 30 for a double-header against the Cubs, but retained once Weeks was lost for the season with a hamstring injury, Gennett has started 17 of his last 20 games and his hitting a robust .387. He still isn’t walking much (five) but his OPS is an impressive 1.088. He has shown some more pop with eight extra base hits, including four home runs.

"He’s not chasing the ball as much as the first time he was up; pretty anxious, just wanted to impress, chased a lot," Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said.

"I’m not seeing that as much. I think anytime you come up here, you’re here for a while, you get sent down, you figure out what you need to be better at. I think when he came back up, we saw improvement from him. The guys that have the aptitude to figure things out, not that everybody doesn’t have some of that aptitude, but the guys that are really good at it, they figure out what they need to do to play well here."

What Gennett "figured out" was actually something he was schooled on after his first season in Class A Wisconsin in Appleton. He started out hitting .370, but then his average fell to .309 by the end of the year. It was that he realized opposing teams began to adjust to his style, but he did none of his own.

Now, take that to the major league level, where such adjustments can happen at-bat to at-bat, series to series and team to team.

That’s the thing about the big leagues – everybody sees everything," he said.

That said, he admits that as of now pitchers are going right after him with pitches in the zone, daring him to beat them first before they drill deeper into scouting reports. Perhaps that is why 64 percent of the first pitches he sees are strikes and nearly 35 percent of them are fastballs.

He is having some luck once he makes contact, too – his batting average of balls in play (BAbip) is an incredibly high .455 – about 160 points above league averages – but that’s Gennett’s game: In 2,048 plate appearances over three and a half seasons in the minor leagues, he has walked just 107 times.

It works, too. According to FanGraphs, Gennett makes contact with a pitch inside the strike zone an incredible 94.3 percent of the time and makes contact 86.4 percent of the he swings, regardless of where the pitch is located.

"Really, it’s just been getting back to what works," he said. "I’m not trying to impress anybody and I’m not trying to do too much, just play my game and see what happens from there. It’s been working as of late."

One of the reasons Gennett was able to get back to what works for him was the knowledge that he will likely play every day with Weeks’ done for the season.

"It always helps when you know you’re playing, when you have a feeling you’ll be playing every day and you have that job," he said. "I feel like when I first got called up it was like an every other day, match up type thing, so when I got in there I was trying to do really good so I could stay in there. Now, that ‘do good, be able to play’ pressure is a little bit diminished.

"That might have something to do with it, but really I’m always trying to do the best I can when I get in there, but it’s almost like I can ... I trust what I’m able to do and what my performance will be from that will be good enough to be in there the next day and the next day and the next day because Rickie is out. So, really, I guess it’s just showing up and I’m going to be playing. It’s almost just normal, like baseball to me rather than I have to do good to be playing tomorrow. I think that’s helped a little bit."

Another reason is for his success has been his fondness for study, and for knowing that the duel between a pitcher and hitter is akin to a chess match played over 60 feet, 6 inches. To win, Gennett utilizes all that’s offered to him. He’ll watch video on upcoming pitcher, not only if he’s faced him, but if he’s faced similar batters, to see how he approaches left-handed, contact, speedsters.

"I’m not going to go up there and watch how they pitch to Big Papi (David Ortiz) or (Ryan) Braun or any of those guys," he said with a smile.

"I’m going to go up there and look at guys similar to my game and see how they approach them. And also see their arm angle and what their pitch does a little bit is always good, but if you get too much into this guy throws this pitch in this count – then you’re thinking and that’s not really my game. I kind of just get in there and react. But I like to use all my resources, especially at this level. It’s right in front of you. If you don’t use them you’re not really trying, if you’re a guy like me that likes to see that stuff. I’m trying to use it all to my advantage and it’s been helping so far."

What Genett has done over the last month, and what he may do over the final month, may also play a part in the direction the team takes at second base in 2014. Roenicke admitted that such an extended look is important for him because he wanted to see Gennett fail and how he reacted to that failure. He’s seen it once, to an extent, between the two call-ups. Now, he can evaluate it daily.

"Anytime a young guy can come up and try to prove what he can do, it’s important to him," Roenicke said. "Things are determined in our minds, what we see, not what just we hear from the minor league guys, but we also need to see it. Doug’s sees him every day playing, and whoever that young guy is that comes up, it’ll change your mind. It’ll change the manager’s mind, it’ll change the (general manager’s) mind and maybe they’ll go in a different direction in the offseason."

Gennett isn’t worried about that. Instead, he’s trying to continue to "do him."

"Really, you just have to be aware of what your strengths are and work on your weaknesses because usually they’re going to try and exploit the weaknesses," he said.

"If you’re able to adjust on your weaknesses, now you’re an All-Star basically. Like (Detroit Tigers third baseman Miguel) Cabrera. If you’re in the (strike) zone you can’t beat him, because he’s able to make those adjustments. It’s just something I’m going to have to work on to have success.

"I try to play the game hard and also with that is getting prepared, the video, the spray charts and everything that’s involved. It’s being able to be prepared mentally to go into the game and be relaxed and just let it all come to you. It always excites me to get an edge. It’s all we’re really trying to do."

Jim Owczarski is an award-winning sports journalist and comes to Milwaukee by way of the Chicago Sun-Times Media Network.

A three-year Wisconsin resident who has considered Milwaukee a second home for the better part of seven years, he brings to the market experience covering nearly all major and college sports.

To this point in his career, he has been awarded six national Associated Press Sports Editors awards for investigative reporting, feature writing, breaking news and projects. He is also a four-time nominee for the prestigious Peter J. Lisagor Awards for Exemplary Journalism, presented by the Chicago Headline Club, and is a two-time winner for Best Sports Story. He has also won numerous other Illinois Press Association, Illinois Associated Press and Northern Illinois Newspaper Association awards.

Jim's career started in earnest as a North Central College (Naperville, Ill.) senior in 2002 when he received a Richter Fellowship to cover the Chicago White Sox in spring training. He was hired by the Naperville Sun in 2003 and moved on to the Aurora Beacon News in 2007 before joining

In that time, he has covered the events, news and personalities that make up the PGA Tour, LPGA Tour, Major League Baseball, the National Football League, the National Hockey League, NCAA football, baseball and men's and women's basketball as well as boxing, mixed martial arts and various U.S. Olympic teams.

Golf aficionados who venture into Illinois have also read Jim in GOLF Chicago Magazine as well as the Chicago District Golfer and Illinois Golfer magazines.