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For these Dodgers, a desperate move with Jerry Sands is risk worth taking

April 18, 2011 |  6:38 pm

Photo: Dodgers outfielder Jerry Sands makes a catch on a fly ball hit by Seattle's Justin Smoak during the fifth inning of an exhibition baseball game last month at Dodger Stadium. Credit: Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press

Desperation.

OK, we got that out of the way. Let’s face it, no matter how much you like the move -- and I do -- it’s not a move a team makes if its house is in order.

Jerry Sands was not some jaw-dropping prospect. He was a 25th-round draft pick out of a small NCAA Division II school called Catawba College in North Carolina. He didn’t make it out of the Class A level until his third year. That would be last year.

Sands came out of nowhere, exploding upon the scene with a breakout season in 2010. And as of Monday, he is a Los Angeles Dodger.

But the Dodgers are an offensive mess right now, and despite spending ony half of last season at double A, Sands had continued to rip up pitching at triple-Albuquerque this month. In his 10 games with Albuquerque.

Ideally, Sands starts this year back at double A, maybe moves up to triple A at the break, gets a September call-up. Is allowed to grow through the ranks.

Only these are far from ideal times for a Dodgers team near the bottom of most offensive statistics, suffering horrible public relations, shrinking attendance and playing sub-.500 baseball.

"We’ve struggled offensively," said General Manager Ned Colletti. "It’s a time to give him an opportunity. I told him, I’m not expecting him to carry the club. It might be a temporary assignment, but it’s time to get his feet wet and see what he can do, and help us out in left field, and maybe he can help us out at first base."

That last little aside might be a message for James Loney, that he’d best get himself turned around. Sands can play left, right, first and, during the Arizona Fall League, has dabbled some at third. One way or another, while he’s up Sands will play, Colletti said.

The Dodgers need to find power somewhere, which is not exactly a shocking development. They went into the offseason needing power, and the only acquisition was Juan Uribe, who’s hitting .154 without one home run.

Monday night the Dodgers started Sands in left and put him in the seventh spot in the batting order. Last year Sands hit a combined 35 home runs in the minors. In his 10 games at Albuquerque he had five home runs and 17 RBIs.

So right now he’s an exciting player, and the Dodgers could seriously use a dose of excitement not named Matt Kemp or Andre Ethier. His emergence coincides perfectly with a lackluster Dodgers attack to fast-track his rise to the majors.

"I think it was the right time to give us a little bit of a boost," Colletti said. "I still think the hitters who are hitting .200 or below aren’t going to hit .200 or below all year. Right here, right now, it’s worth a shot."

What do they have to lose?

The worst thing that can happen is Sands is exposed as terribly unprepared, is sent back to the minors with shattered confidence and never truly develops.

Yet even if he does struggle, all indications are he is mature, has it together mentally, will make adjustments, rebound and return to fight the battle another day.

And if he does make it? Then borne of desperation or not, a gamble worth taking.

-- Steve Dilbeck

Photo: Dodgers outfielder Jerry Sands makes a catch on a fly ball hit by Seattle's Justin Smoak during the fifth inning of an exhibition baseball game last month at Dodger Stadium. Credit: Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press

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