So, about the Dodgers' amazing youth movement ...
Yeah, well, one step forward. It seems, however, that Jerry Sands was deemed to have taken one step too many backward, and, really, that's tough to argue.
Since his second -- and most recent -- home run May 24, he has three hits in 35 at-bats, all singles.
He is struggling, which is to be expected for a rookie in his first time up. And, as they say, he needs regular playing time. That is something he is not likely to see now that right-handed batting Marcus Thames is off the disabled list.
So before their game Thursday at Colorado, the Dodgers optioned Sands to triple-A Albuquerque and recalled left-handed hitting outfielder Trent Oeltjen.
It's not as though this is some permanent move for Sands, nor he was a major bust. Still, he was not exactly the phenom Dodgers fans were hoping for either. He heads back down hitting .200 with two home runs and 17 runs batted in in 125 at-bats, and with a .294 on-base percentage and a .328 slugging percentage.
He did have 10 doubles, which was third best on the club, so it's not as though he was never driving the ball.
Still, he clearly could benefit from some extra Carnauba. He will play regularly at Albuquerque, work on those things he now knows need attention and return a more confident player, and most certainly this season.
This also, of course, means the Dodgers are going to give Thames a real shot at playing and earning the faith they put in him when he was signed in the off-season.
Then, he was supposed to be paired in a platoon in left field with Jay Gibbons, who was designated for assignment Monday. Now, Tony Gwynn Jr. and Oeltjen (.339, eight home runs, 34 RBIs, .429 on-base percentage, .583 slugging percentage) will be the left-handed complements to Thames. And you have to wonder how long his rope is.
To make room for Oeltjen on the 40-man roster, the Dodgers outrighted right-hander Luis Vasquez, 25, from Class-A Rancho Cucamonga.
The Dodgers remain plenty youthful and Sands is a huge part of their future. His make-up, his approach and his ability remain untarnished. For the moment, though, this feels like the right move.
-- Steve Dilbeck
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So, about the Dodgers' amazing youth movement ...
Opportunities were going to be precious. Someone would have to blink first, which figured to be the game the way Hiroki Kuroda and Cole Hamels were going.
It was a tight pitchers’ dual on a hot, humid Wednesday night in Philadelphia. After the Phillies finally scored in the sixth, the Dodgers wasted a prime scoring opportunity the next inning.
And that was the Dodgers’ offense for the night.
The Phillies tipped their caps in thanks, and went on to a 2-0 victory behind Hamels’ eight shut-out innings.
Kuroda was cruising along through four innings, having allowed just one single. He picked up the first two outs of the fifth and seemed on his way to another easy inning.
Until Michael Martinez tripled and Kuroda suddenly couldn’t find the strike zone. He walked Hamels. He threw a wild pitch that sailed behind Shane Victorino. In a break for the Dodgers, the speedy Martinez did not attempt to score. Catcher Rod Barajas fielded the miscue, threw to Kuroda covering home and hit Victorino in the butt. When Hamels took second, Kuroda intentionally walked Victorino to load the bases.
Kuroda seemed to be melting in the humidity. He worked Domonic Brown to a full count, before getting him to line out to Andre Ethier in right and exhale.
Despite how he labored, manager Don Mattingly curiously let Kuroda bat in the bottom of the fifth. Second batter Kuroda faced the next inning, Ryan Howard, homered to right.
It was the first home run for the Phillies this month.
Ted Lilly pitched well again. Trouble was, the other guy pitched really well.
The other being Philadelphia left-hander Cliff Lee, who shut the Dodgers out through seven innings and pretty much dominated in the Phillies' 3-1 victory Monday.
Dodgers Manager Don Mattingly tried an all-right-handed lineup against Lee to no avail. He started Casey Blake at first for James Loney, sat Andre Ethier and batted Marcus Thames in the third spot.
Mattingly called Thames "hit or miss" against Lee, noting he had hit three home runs and struck out 15 times in 36 career at-bats.
The Dodgers made little noise against the Philly ace, but the two times they did, Thames unfortunately went the "miss" route.
The Dodgers opened the game with leadoff singles by Jamey Carroll and Aaron Miles -- both now slated for the bench with the Monday roster additions of Juan Uribe and Dee Gordon.
Thames, straight off the disabled list with a strained quadriceps, promptly bounced into a double play. Matt Kemp was called out on strikes, and the Dodgers had come up empty.
The Dodgers got two-out singles from Carroll and Miles again in the fifth, and Thames struck out. Those were all the chances they got against Lee (5-5), who struck out 10 and walked one.
The Phillies didn’t fare much better against Lilly, but cashed in on their opportunity in the third.
Wilson Valdez open the bottom of the inning with a double and Lee’s bunt sacrificed him to third. Lilly, who had walked only 12 batters in 72 2/3 innings, then walked Shane Victorino on four pitches.
Placido Polanco and Ryan Howard followed with run-scoring singles.
Lilly gave up only five hits in his six innings, but three of them came in the decisive third. He walked one and struck out four, giving up two runs. It was the seventh consecutive game he went at least six innings.
The Phillies added a third run in the eighth against reliever Mike MacDougal on a pair of walks and a Carlos Ruiz double. Walks killed the Dodgers all night.
The Dodgers did manager to avoid being shut out by scratching a run together against interim Phillies closer Ryan Madson in the ninth.
Uribe led off with a single, and then Gordon -- making his major-league debut -- pinch ran. Loney, who entered the game when Blake was thrown out arguing strikes, singled and the speedy Gordon took third. Ethier pinch hit and bounced out, Gordon scoring on the play.
But Madson struck out Rod Barajas and pinch-hitter Dioner Navarro to earn his 13th save.
After two uplifting victories the past two games in Cincinnati, the Dodgers had hit a familiar wall in Philadelphia.
-- Steve Dilbeck
Photo: Dodgers first baseman Casey Blake tosses the ball to pitcher Ted Lilly, but Philadelphia's Dominic Brown was safe on the play. Credit: Drew Hallowell/Getty Images
“I’m going to use him, play him,” Mattingly said. “I don’t think we can bring him and sit him.”
The son of former major-league pitcher Tom "Flash" Gordon, Dee Gordon was batting .315 in 50 games with triple-A Albuquerque.
“He’s got tools right now that play to the big-league level,” General Manager Ned Colletti said. “Losing Raffy for another extended period of time -- two weeks, three weeks, four weeks, whatever it turns out to be -- we needed to add somebody who could play a lot of shortstop. Jamey Carroll has been great, [Aaron] Miles has been great, to run them out every day for the next few weeks, we thought we would be a better club with the added talents and versatility of Dee.”
Gordon will wear No. 9.
He will presumably make his major-league debut over the next three days at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia, where his father used to pitch.
“I know this place we’re at right now like the back of my hand,” Gordon said.
In other news:
--With Cliff Lee pitching for the Phillies, Andre Ethier is out of the lineup for Monday's game. With the Dodgers playing in intense heat and humidity in their recently concluded series in Cincinnati, Mattingly said he wanted to rest his left-handed hitters on a day when a left-hander pitched for the Phillies. Ethier said nothing is wrong with him physically. "Good to go," Ethier said.
--Marcus Thames, who was activated, is batting third. Mattingly offered some reasons. Thames is “hit or miss” against Lee. He has hit three home runs and struck out 15 times in 36 career at-bats against Lee. Mattingly said he hopes that by batting Thames in front of Matt Kemp, he will see better pitches to hit. Also, if Lee is pulled, Mattingly can put Ethier into the game in his usual No. 3 spot.
--First base coach Davey Lopes said he was emotional returning to Philadelphia, where he coached the previous four seasons. He said that with the Dodgers playing their home games in a half-empty stadium, he misses the intensity of Phillies fans. He said a difference of opinion of how he should be compensated was “part of” his decision to leave the Phillies, but that, “it wasn’t just that.” But he said he had nothing bad to say about the Phillies, adding, “They treated me great.”
-- Dylan Hernandez in Philadelphia
Photo: Dee Gordon during his spring training photo shoot. Credit: Harry How / Getty Images
Yikes, Dodgers go young: Call up Dee Gordon, keep Jerry Sands as Jay Gibbons, Juan Castro designated for assignment
Even as the Dodgers activated two players older than 30 Monday, they managed to get younger with a series of stunning moves.
Suddenly, this is not the same Dodgers organization you’ve known the last two seasons. Kids were everywhere.
On Monday the Dodgers elected to keep rookie outfielder Jerry Sands and designate veteran Jay Gibbons for assignment, while calling up shortstop prospect Dee Gordon and also designating veteran infielder Juan Castro.
Busy on the roster front, as expected they also activated infielder Juan Uribe, outfielder Marcus Thames and reliever Blake Hawksworth.
Then they optioned infielder Ivan De Jesus Jr.and right-hander John Ely back to triple-A.
If you were screaming for the Dodgers to go with youth, Monday was your big day.
Gordon has been one of their top prospects for the last couple of years. The rail-thin infielder has zero power but is lightning fast. At triple-A Albuquerque, he was batting .315 with 22 steals in 25 attempts. His glove work, however has been suspect.
Still, the Dodgers did not bring Gordon up to sit him. With Rafael Furcal again on the disabled list, he figures to see his share of starting time at shortstop. Monday against the Phillies, however, they continued to start Jamey Carroll at short and Aaron Miles at second.
Uribe was back in the lineup at second, Thames in left (and batting third) and Sands in right for Andre Ethier against the left-handed Cliff Lee.
The Dodgers had agonized over whether to return Sands to Albuquerque. Sands has not been the sensation some hoped for but has shown promise (.210 average, two homers, 17 RBI, 10 doubles in 119 at-bats) and now figures to get a prolonged chance to stick.
After a comeback year at Albuquerque in 2010, Gibbons, 34, struggled with vision problems this year. He was hitting .255 with one homer and five RBI in 55 at-bats.
Castro, who turns 39 later this month, had two hits in 14 at-bats and was an emergency fill-in. He was reliable with the glove and a classy guy to have in the clubhouse, but this may end his career.
-- Steve Dilbeck
Photo: Dodgers rookie Jerry Sands in congratulated by third baseman Casey Blake after throwing out a Cubs baserunner earlier this season. Credit: Charles Cherney / Associated Press
Will leave connecting any dots up to you.
-- Jonathan Broxton: Bone spur, bruise on left elbow, first time on DL. Listed at 300 pounds.
-- Rafael Furcal: Left oblique injury sends him back to the DL for sixth time as a Dodger and second time this season. He is 33.
-- Jon Garland: Also his second stint, this time with an inflamed shoulder. During the off-season, said teams shied away from long-term contract offer because of MRI exam on shoulder. He is 31.
-- Hector Gimenez: Forget about him? Had knee surgery after appearing in just four games. He is listed as 28.
-- Blake Hawksworth: Hip impingement has him on DL for first time in career. Expected back next week, though was originally expected back last week. He is also 28.
-- Kenley Jansen: Inflamed right shoulder. He’s just 23, but converted catcher only in his second full season as a pitcher. Have to wonder about arm strength.
-- Hong-Chih Kuo: Sadly, after four elbow operations, the DL is his second home. This time he’s out indefinitely with anxiety disorder. Turns 30 next month. Is throwing at Phoenix camp.
-- Vicente Padilla: On for the second time this season, this time with a sore forearm following surgery last spring. Padilla, 33, was scheduled to come off Friday, but remained on with the same neck pain that plagued him last season. Has been on the DL 10 times in his career.
-- Marcus Thames: Has a quad strain, but expected back next week. He is 34.
-- Juan Uribe: Strained left hip flexor. Uribe, 32, is expected to be activated Monday.
Previously on the DL were Casey Blake (37), Jay Gibbons (34) and Dioner Navarro (27). The Dodgers have used the DL 18 times in 58 games.
-- Steve Dilbeck
Photo: Former All-Star reliever Hong-Chih Kuo delivers a pitch against the Giants in the eighth inning of a game at Dodger Stadium in early April. Credit: Gus Ruelas / Associated Press
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
Sometimes you do what you want to do, sometimes what you have to do.
If the Dodgers had things firmly under control, then Casey Blake and Rafael Furcal would not have been rushed back from injuries. They would have been given more rehab time, more at-bats in the minors, more time to hone their skills.
Only things are not firmly within their control, not in the standings and not in terms of healthy, breathing players.
So ready or not, Friday the Dodgers activated Blake from the disabled list and optioned Russ Mitchell back to triple-A Albuquerque.
And much like Furcal, Dodgers Manager Don Mattingly admitted they are rushing him back sooner than they would like.
"It feels a little similar," Mattingly said.
Blake, who had left elbow surgery for a staph infection, went two for 14 at Albuquerque with eight strikeouts and no runs batted in.
"Obviously we’d like for him to get a bit more playing time down there," Mattingly said. "But we also know it doesn’t count.
"We really didn’t have any choice."
Worst. Bench. Ever.
Not just for the Dodgers, not even for baseball. In the entire history of mankind, has there ever been a more uninspiring bench in any sport than the current unit of the Dodgers?
Right now, any time Don Mattingly has to go to his bench, it’s time to cover the eyes. Bodies with numbers on the back.
His bench options Wednesday were Tony Gwynn Jr. (.224), Jerry Sands (.200), Dioner Navarro (.158), Russ Mitchell (.000) and Juan Castro (.000). Among them, they have one home run.
With four position players on the disabled list (Casey Blake, Rafael Furcal, Marcus Thames and Hector Gimenez), what’s been left behind is almost unwatchable. These days, Mattingly best have a pretty good reason to even look to his bench.
Don Mattingly has a message for all of you getting just a tiny bit down on this year’s Dodgers: It’s going to get better!
He meant this season, too.
"I think we have a chance to be in the playoffs this year," Mattingly said.
Of course, there is the argument that they can’t get much worse, though only four games under .500 going into Tuesday night’s game leaves them room to continue to sink.
Mattingly is convinced several underperforming offensive players will become more productive and the team will get a boost with the return of Rafael Furcal and Casey Blake off the disabled list.
"Four games under .500 is not where we want to be," he said.
"We’re better than this. I really believe that. We’re going to see. We’re going to see if what I believe in, and this team I believe in, if it shows."