The Los Angeles Dodgers played their first game at the brand new Salt River Fields at Talking Stick in Scottsdale today against the Colorado Rockies, and minor league outfielder Jerry Sands continued his hot spring. The 2009 organizational player of the year, Sands had a home run and a triple in today's game, the latter nearly a second long ball, leading the Dodgers to a 7-1 win over the Rockies.
It's still early in the spring of course, so take things with a grain of salt, but Sands has been the talk of Dodger camp offensively. In his 16 plate appearances, Sands has six hits, including two home runs and a triple, and three walks. He is hitting .462/.563/1.077 in the early going. Sands, who hit 35 home runs between Single A and Double A in 2010, can play first base and either corner outfield spot, giving him flexibility in eventually making the roster. His power is attractive to a Dodger offense that projects to be below average this season.
However, don't expect to see Sands at Dodger Stadium when the season starts. The Dodgers would prefer that Sands play everyday in the minors to develop, at least to start the season, rather than sit on the major league bench as part of a platoon. But manager Don Mattingly has taken notice of Sands, telling Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times, "I guess it depends on what's going on. If we're getting production, it gives him an opportunity to develop. If there may be a need and you're not afraid of calling him up, at that point you make a decision."
Lost in the shuffle today behind Sands' performance was that Xavier Paul also homered. Paul, who is out of options and is vying to make the club, had struck out eight times in his first 13 plate appearances of the spring. The left-handed Paul's best bet to make the squad is essentially to beat out Jay Gibbons for the lefty half of the left field platoon.
Ted Lilly made his first Cactus League start of the season today, allowing one run in 3 1/3 innings. He pitched in a B game last week after getting scratched from a start due to the flu that was spreading through the Dodger clubhouse. Dodger starting pitchers this season have allowed just four earned runs in 30 innings, a 1.20 ERA. On Tuesday, the Dodgers head to Phoenix to face the Brewers at Maryvale Stadium, with John Ely getting the start on the mound. Hiroki Kuroda will pitch in a B game against the Mariners tomorrow morning on Field 6 at Camelback Ranch, a game that was recently added to the schedule in order for both teams' pitchers to get more work.
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