Dodgers call up hot-swinging Sands

Dodgers call up hot-swinging Sands

LOS ANGELES -- Whether it's panic or the need for production, the Dodgers pulled the trigger on Jerry Sands, promoting him from Triple-A Albuquerque on Monday.

They made room for the hot-hitting prospect by designating Xavier Paul for assignment. Sands was immediately inserted into the lineup for Monday night's game against Atlanta in left field, batting seventh.

He made an immediate impact in the Dodgers' 4-2 win, doubling in his first at-bat and delivering his first RBI with a sacrifice fly in his second at-bat. After making a lunging catch on Brian McCann's sinking liner in the bottom of the fourth, the Dodger Stadium crowd was chanting "Jer-ry, Jer-ry."

"I was pretty surprised," Sands said of the promotion. "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."

General manager Ned Colletti and manager Don Mattingly said Sands will play and not sit. He's an above-average left fielder, meaning he will send Tony Gwynn to the bench, which was the original plan when Gwynn was signed to be the fourth outfielder.

And if James Loney (.150, two extra-base hits) doesn't start hitting soon, Sands could just as easily wind up at first base.

Just last week Colletti was reluctant to make this move, as Sands has played only two professional seasons after being taken in the 25th round of the 2008 First-Year Player Draft out of tiny Catawba College in Salisbury, N.C., signing for a meager $5,000 bonus.

But the combination of his continued productive hitting, and the lack of it by Dodgers other than Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier and Jamey Carroll, forced the move.

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

Although Colletti is always hesitant to hand jobs to rookies, the Dodgers have had luck making similar quick decisions. Ethier was promoted May 2, 2006, and never looked back. Russell Martin debuted three days later.

"We expect him to be himself," Colletti said. "He didn't come here to save the franchise. He came here to win games. He's pretty even keel and level headed. He gets it. We're pretty confident this kid will be pretty good."

So is Sands.

"You've got to have confidence, you've got to know what you can do," he said. "If you want to go out and compete with other players and step up to another level, even if you're not that good, you've got to have confidence."

Sands, 23, was hitting .400 (10-for-40) with five home runs and 17 RBIs with an on-base plus slugging of 1.297. He made an impact on Mattingly when they were together during last year's Arizona Fall League. Prior to that, he was named the organization's position player of the year last year when he combined for 35 home runs splitting time between Class A Great Lakes and Double-A Chattanooga.

Colletti said special assistants Bill Mueller and Mark Sweeney scouted Sands last year and reported that Sands processed the game and at-bats better than some of their former Major League teammates.

"He did come quick," Colletti said. "He has a very strong character and humility about him. It's a confidence that is not based on hope, but true confidence."

Mattingly agreed with Colletti that Sands has the proper makeup to make the jump. A year ago, Sands was in Class A.

"He's a guy we trust," Mattingly said. "He let you know he's ready. We feel like mentally, if he struggles, he'll make the adjustments and give you quality at-bats and it won't set him back."

Mattingly said Sands' athletic build reminds him of St. Louis slugger Matt Holliday, although Sands is said to be a better defender.

Sands said the Major League minimum salary of $414,000 will come in handy. He and his fiancee just bought a house in North Carolina, where during the offseason he moonlights as a substitute teacher.

He said his first professional season was a struggle because of pitchers' increased velocity, but that he never got discouraged.

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

He said he's comfortable in either outfield corner spot and is gaining confidence at first base, particularly after getting tips from Mattingly in the AFL. Mattingly ruled out third base for now, although Sands has played the position occasionally.

Paul, who is out of options, was 3-for-11 with five strikeouts.

Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.