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Big League Stew

Jerry Sands earns respect of fans and foes in big league debut

Mark Townsend
Big League Stew

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Sands

Frustrated by their early offensive struggles, the Los Angeles Dodgers dipped into their minor league resources on Monday when they called up 23-year-old power-hitting prospect Jerry Sands.

Sands, who one year ago at this time was playing Class-A ball for the Great Lake Loons of the Midwest League, had been tearing up the Pacific Coast League, hitting .400 with five home runs and 17 RBIs in only 10 games for Triple-A Albuquerque prior to the promotion. The decision to bring him up had to be one of Ned Colletti's easiest as a general manager.

Manager Don Mattingly wasted no time inserting Sands into his lineup, batting him seventh and playing him in left field, and the decision paid immediate dividends in the Dodgers' 4-2 win over the Atlanta Braves.

In his first career at-bat, Sands inside-outed a 1-2 pitch from starter Tim Hudson for a double down the right-field line. An excellent piece of hitting against one of the game's toughest right-handers. His second at-bat was even more productive, as he drove a Hudson pitch to deep right field for a sacrifice fly.

And Sands didn't just make his mark offensively. In the fourth inning, he misread a Brian McCann liner, but was able to recover in time to make a diving grab. By the time he got to his feet, most of the 28,292 in attendance were on their feet chanting "Jer-ry."

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"I had it happen before in the Minor Leagues with a couple of thousand, but at Dodger Stadium it's completely different," Sands said. "Most of the time they take a Jerry Springer kind of chant and blow it into something decent."

Sands would go on to strike out in his final two plate appearances, but I couldn't help but come away impressed with his approach and his ability. Even Tim Hudson, who had a curveball slip out of his hands and sail over Sands' head, tipped his cap to the youngster, while apologizing for the scary moment.

"It's happened before," Sands said. "He [Hudson] sent a ball over, signed it, said congratulations on the debut and that it just got away from him. No reason for him to throw over my head. A classy move. We had a battle. It's nothing at all."

The Dodgers hope Sands will give them stability at either first base or left field. As Eric Stephen of True Blue LA pointed out, it won't take a whole lot for those positions to be upgraded. James Loney is off to a miserable start, and doubts surrounding his future production grow by the day. The left-field trio of Marcus Thames, Xavier Paul and Tony Gwynn Jr. pretty much leave Mattingly pulling a name out of a hat every day.

One game doesn't provide enough evidence to indicate whether or not Sands can provide that stability, but you can bet his name will be on the lineup card again Tuesday night. And every day after that for the foreseeable future.

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