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DODGERS FYI

Desperate for offense, Dodgers call up Jerry Sands

The 23-year-old, who's been tearing up triple-A pitching, arrives in time to start in left field Monday against Atlanta. Dodgers hope he'll help an offense that was tied for last in the majors in runs.

April 18, 2011|By Dylan Hernandez
  • Dodgers left fielder Jerry Sands follows through on a run-scoring double during his first major league at-bat in the first inning against the Atlanta Braves on Monday night at Dodger Stadium.
Dodgers left fielder Jerry Sands follows through on a run-scoring double… (Kirby Lee / US Presswire )

Manager Don Mattingly said he wasn't concerned about the Dodgers' offense. General Manager Ned Colletti said the same.

But what the Dodgers did Monday said otherwise.

They called up Jerry Sands.

With their offense tied for last in the major leagues in runs per game, the Dodgers turned to a 23-year-old outfielder who was in low-A ball this time last year.

"Why not?" Colletti asked.

Dodgers-Braves box score

Sands has already defied expectations.

A former 25th-round pick out of Catawba College in North Carolina — a school known in these parts perhaps only because it was the alma mater of former Los Angeles Rams receiver Bucky Pope — Sands hit .205 in his first season of pro baseball.

He had a breakout season last year, when he hit a combined 35 home runs for low-A Great Lakes and double-A Chattanooga. (He skipped Class A.)

Colletti said that he dispatched two of his special assistants, Bill Mueller and Mark Sweeney, to watch Sands play last season. Both offered similar thoughts.

Jerry Sands in an instant star in Dodgers' 4-2 win over the Braves

"He's got an ability to read a situation, to slow it down in his mind," Colletti said, summarizing what he was told.

Sands, who played in triple A for the first time this year, has a combined 348 plate appearances in double A and triple A. Since 2000, only two players have made fewer plate appearances at those levels and played for the Dodgers: Matt Kemp and Blake DeWitt.

Sands, who is 6 feet 4 and 220 pounds, was hitting .400 with five home runs in 10 games for triple-A Albuquerque. The Dodgers cleared a place on the active roster by designating Xavier Paul for assignment.

"It's been a fast couple of years," Sands said. "It's a dream."

Video: Jerry Sands, Don Mattingly on 4-2 win over Braves

Over the last two winters, Sands worked as a substitute teacher in Smithfield, N.C. He admitted he did so for financial reasons.

Sands is engaged to be married next off-season. He recently bought a house.

"I had to get the ring, the house," he said. "It started piling on me."

Mattingly said Sands' even temperament was one of the reasons he felt comfortable calling him up.

"He's a guy we trust," Mattingly said. "If he comes up and struggles, he's a guy who's going to continue to make adjustments, take quality at-bats."

In other words, he won't be ruined.

Mattingly and Colletti said Sands would be the Dodgers' everyday left fielder. He started there Monday night against Atlanta and doubled to right in his first at-bat, during the Dodgers' three-run first inning. His second time up, he drove in a run with a sacrifice fly in the third.

"I don't think we can bring him up and not play him," Mattingly said.

Mattingly said Sands could also play first base if James Loney continues to slump.

Mattingly and Colletti did what they could to downplay expectations. Mattingly batted Sands seventh Monday and Colletti said the call-up could be a "temporary assignment."

But while saying he didn't want to place any labels on Sands, Mattingly mentioned that his combination of speed and size reminded him of someone: Matt Holliday.

Short hops

If Vicente Padilla doesn't have any issues in his rehabilitation appearance for Class-A Rancho Cucamonga on Tuesday, he could be activated for an upcoming six-game trip that starts in Chicago on Friday. . . . Backup catcher Dioner Navarro, who is recovering from a strained side muscle, will begin a rehabilitation assignment with double-A Chattanooga. . . . The first 50,000 fans at Dodger Stadium on Tuesday night will receive a Fernando Valenzuela fleece blanket.

dylan.hernandez@latimes.com

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