Sunday, May 15, 2011

Dodgers Force-Feed Top Rookie Jerry Sands

With reserve right-fielder Marcus Thames unlikely to come off the disabled list when eligible May 18,  rookie Jerry Sands looks to gain continued playing time as Dodgers manager Don Mattingly force feeds the youngster with starts not only in left field,  but at his natural position at first base.

The 6-foot-4,  240-pound Sands,  primarily filling Thames role as right-handed power bat off the bench,  has been starting almost every day in left field,  then moving to first base against left-handed pitchers while starting first baseman James Loney struggles with a .125 average against them.
Though half of Sands' 14 hits have been doubles,  and he has given a number of pitches a long ride to the wall, so far he has failed to take advantage of his opportunity,  with his average stuck at the.200 mark.   However,  he will not have reached the 100-at-bat benchmark until near the end of next week,  a juncture at which he is likely to be reassessed.

The Dodgers are desperate for punch, and will turn to veteran Jay Gibbons, a left-handed batter recovering from blurred vision, to start in left field against righties, thus putting Sands in a virtual platoon.

While Sands' emergence -- if it can be called that -- is purely opportunistic until now,  theoretically he could surprise observers by winning regular spot in the lineup if only he could perform even fractionally as well as he had been playing at Triple A Albuquerque when the Dodgers called him up as a stop-gap measure.

Sands, 23, the 2010 Dodgers Minor League Player of the Year, was hitting a homer in just about every 10 at-bats,  a total of five to open the season,  and pounding minor league pitching at a .400 clip.  With Thames out possibly into June,  time remains for Sands to prove himself.