Has Jerry Sands done enough to stick?
It’s a tough one for the Dodgers, but it's a looming decision with outfielder Marcus Thames expected to come off the disabled list next week.
Someone is going to have to go, and if it’s easy to see Juan Castro being returned to the minors when Juan Uribe comes off the disabled list in the next few days, there is no obvious outfielder to make room for Thames.
The highly-touted Sands has neither blown people away nor proven a major disappointment (.220 average, .317 slugging, .367 on-base) since being called up April 18.
He has shown enough to keep faith in the Dodgers’ reigning minor league player of the year, but that is far from making him a lock to remain when Thames is activated.
"We’ll see," said Dodgers General Manager Ned Colletti. "I reserve judgment until I have to make that decision."
There is, of course, a difference between being the future and the immediate future.
If there is no obvious candidate to go down, then Sands has that one great thing going against him that all young players on the bubble have -- he has options left.
Sands is a right-handed bat, as is Thames and center-fielder Matt Kemp. Andre Ethier, Jay Gibbons and Tony Gwynn Jr. all bat left-handed.
Manager Don Mattingly plans to play Thames when he returns, which may not bode well for Sands. The rookie also needs regular playing time. Remember, he started last season in lower Class A.
"I’d like to get Marcus back in there, back in the mix," Mattingly said. "Give him a shot at where we started the season against left-handers. He gives us some pop out of the outfield.
"At that point with Jerry, he could possibly play some first base against a lefty, or if it’s a lefty Dre [Ethier] struggles against, Jerry could play right field. Again the combination of guys as they come back really gives you a lot more options left and right, days off for different guys at different times."
Swell, assuming Sands is around to be in the mix. No one is promising anything, which may be telling.
"I can’t say there’s no possibility of anything at this point," Mattingly said. "Decisions will have to be made as guys get healthy."
If they keep Sands, can they get him enough playing time if Thames is mostly starting against left-handers?
If he does remain, then the Dodgers have to do something with Gwynn or Gibbons, or elect to go with six relievers. In limited playing Gwynn is not hitting (.193), which is to be expected, but is their best defensive outfielder, also expected. Gibbons, after battling vision troubles, is hitting all right (.245) but thus far without the hoped-for power (one home run, two doubles in 53 at-bats).
Having options could yet prove the decisive factor. Of course, even if sent back to triple-A, he would likely return the next time an outfielder was injured.
-- Steve Dilbeck
Photo: Dodgers left fielder Jerry Sands makes a diving attempt to catch a deep fly ball hit by San Diego's Jason Bartlett during a game in April at Dodger Stadium. Credit: Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times