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Dodgers promote top prospect Sands

The Sports Xchange
Roster Report · Notes, Quotes · Dodgers promote top prospect Sands

When asked why he promoted Jerry Sands, the organization's top hitting prospect to the majors on Monday, Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti answered with a question.

"Why not now?"

The Dodgers' offense is struggling, ranking last in the National League in runs (52), tied for second-last in home runs (9), third-to-last in on-base percentage (.308), and third-to-last in slugging percentage (.352).

It was only 10 games, but Sands was raking in the Pacific Coast League. He posted a .400/.422/.875 slash line with five home runs and 17 RBI.

"It's tough to overlook either," Colletti said. "I was thinking about it the last day or two and decided (Sunday) morning. Right here, right now, it's time to give it a shot. It'll be exciting to see what he can do."

Sands isn't asked to be the savior or the leader. He's just being asked to provide a spark to an offense that clearly needs it. He did that Monday with a double in his first major league at-bat, after the Dodgers already led 3-0, and added a sacrifice fly in a 4-2 win over the Braves.

They didn't promote Sands to sit on the bench, either.

"He's going to play," manager Don Mattingly said. "I'm not going to kill him. But you don't bring a prospect like him up to sit on the bench."

One year ago, Sands was at low-A Great Lakes in the Midwest League. He spent a half season there, skipped the high-A Cal League, and dominated the second half at Class AA Chattanooga. After a stint in the Arizona Fall League, he was promoted after 10 games at Class AAA Albuquerque.

"I was pretty surprised," Sands said. "It's a dream I always wanted to do and now I have. They told me to come ready to play, don't change the player I am, not to try to do too much."

The ripple effect of Sands' promotion is significant. Xavier Paul was designated for assignment to make room on the 40-man and 25-man roster.

Tony Gwynn, Jr. will likely see dramatically less playing time in left field. The only leadoff options are now Jamey Carroll (who rested Monday because he's 1-for-11 against Tim Hudson) and Aaron Miles (who is now 5-for-14 against Hudson after collecting a first-inning single).

When a left-handed pitcher starts, Sands will play first base and James Loney will sit on the bench. Loney delivered a two-run single in the first inning Monday, and he needs to do more of that, because Sands could end up the starting first baseman if Loney's .150 average doesn't go up soon.

Marcus Thames, once he's healthy enough, will likely still get starts in left field against lefties when Sands is at first base.

It leaves Jay Gibbons in limbo. Right now, Gibbons is still in the minors trying to get adjusted to new contact lenses. Mattingly says Gibbons has good days and bad days seeing the ball. Gibbons visited with another eye specialist on Monday.

It's possible that Sands is sent back to the minors whenever Gibbons is ready.

It's also possible Sands is the starting left fielder for the next six years.

Mattingly compared Sands' body type to Matt Holliday, noting that both are big guys with broad shoulders, deceptively good speed and athleticism. Sands made numerous impressive catches in spring training, so he's probably better than Holliday defensively.

Sands carries himself the way you might expect a 25th-round pick from tiny Division II Catawba College. He's confident, yet not at all arrogant. He's respectful of teammates, but not shy to approach them and say hello.

"I wasn't drafted high," Sands said. "I didn't get a lot of money. But I thought it through and knew at the back end (the majors) is what I was looking for."

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