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We thought it might be enough to hang on.
When Jerry Sands stepped into the box Monday afternoon, facing a 3-3 tie in the bottom of the ninth, he had the chance to leave the stadium as a hero.
And he did. (http://atmlb.com/GUPoXc)
Sands ripped a walk-off single to send the White Sox packing in a not-so-important spring training game. To the Dodgers, a walk-off hit is nice. To Sands, a walk-off hit can be the difference between Prime Rib in Los Angeles and Green Chile in Albuquerque.
The game-winner also came in the wake of Sands’ nine consecutive hitless at-bats. The hit had the potential to give the infielder some of his confidence back, which up until Monday, came at a premium. Without putting the former Isotope to too much shame, Sands was hitting only roughly better than I am while I sit at my desk.
“I have been feeling pretty brutal,” Sands told ESPN. “I’m just trying to work on some things. I have made some adjustments here and there, and I’m trying to get comfortable with some of the changes that I have made.”
You have to feel for the guy who showed such great flashes of potential last season when he hit .342 in 20 games during September for the Dodgers. Sands had tinkered with his swing a few times before posting those numbers, a sort of foreshadow to spring training.
At camp, Dodgers’ hitting coaches (that’s plural, coaches — all three of them) each offered their own insight to perfect Sands’ swing. And Sands, a teacher himself, knows three different voices telling you three different things can lead to trouble.
“You like to get help, and a lot of different people were trying to help,” Sands said.”But everybody is different as a hitter. I appreciate the help, and I love to listen, because I know I don’t know all of it. But I was up there thinking so many things at the plate, thinking about my swing and all that, and it’s tough enough already when you have that pitcher throwing 95 (mph).
A classic case of over-thinking.
Sands had initially entered camp with a legitimate, if not almost certain, shot at making the Opening Day 25-man roster. He has the ability to serve as a power-hitter for the Dodgers against lefties, but was never able to perform quite up to par in Glendale, Arizona.
“Even with the hit yesterday, he doesn’t feel good, he doesn’t feel right,” Dodgers Manager Don Mattingly said. “It’s been a rough camp for Jerry, and obviously, Jerry knows it.”
With those final words to seal Sands’ fate, Mattingly today announced he had optioned Sands to minor-league camp, most likely placing him in Albuquerque for the start of the 2012 season. From there, Sands has been told he may still figure into the Dodgers’ game plan at some point later this season.
“Right now, I’m just trying to see some pitches and get good swings on them,” Sands said. “I’m taking it at-bat to at-bat and pitch to pitch.”
May I suggest walk-off to walk-off?
I’m scared to write this blog. I’ll admit it. I seem to have brought bad luck, bad at-bats and a bad spring training in general to anyone I spotlight in the ‘Topes Tattler. I’m sincerely sorry Jerry Sands (now batting .174), Justin Sellers (injured on March 19, and going 3-for-his-last-13 before) and Scott Van Slyke (hitless in 5 of 10 exhibition games). Please don’t hold it against me.
So, to at least make myself feel better about all of this, I’ll blame the recent streak of terrible luck on the ‘Topes Tattler, and not myself.
We’ll call it “The Curse Of The Tattler.”
Fingers crossed, knocking on wood, rabbit foot in my other hand, witchcraft book open to any page but 13 — deep breath — here we go: Hello, Josh Fields.
Anyone who is anyone knows about the final roster battle waging between former ‘Topes Jerry Sands and Justin Sellers, now also features another PCL player from 2011, Josh Fields. The trio is in a daily competition against each other, where every at-bat weighs as much, if not more, than all previous playing time in each prospect’s career. The winner to the Pro’s, the losers (though not really “losers” in our book) to the Isotopes.
No pressure or anything.
Even at the very top the situation is as unclear today as it was before spring training started. Dodgers General Manager, Ned Colletti, recently told Dodgers Radio that the ever-changing shape of the Opening Day roster is “fluid.”
“We’ll see what the situation is day-by-day and do what’s best for everybody,” Colletti said.
Given the nature of this year’s spring training, day-to-day is about as fair as any player can ask. This also means the last reserve, bench spot on the Dodgers 25-man will likely be decided within the next nine spring training games.
Three players. Two at-bats a game. One roster spot.
And one Curse of the Tattler.
But as of recent, nonroster invitee Josh Fields has slowly begun to emerge as the likely candidate, hitting .385, second on the team to only Andre Ethier (.440). In fact, Fields credits much of his success at the plate to the point that he WASN’T a roster invitee this spring.
“It gives you a little bit more to strive for, a little bit more drive to come in,” Fields told the LA Daily News. “I’m going to earn every single bit of it. I’m past the point of having things handed out and given (to me).”
Fields’ lack of notice from other teams may come from his decision to split from Triple-A Colorado Springs last season, to finish out 2011 overseas for Yomiuri in the Japan Central League. Playing the corners of the infield for the Giants, Fields appeared in 50 games while hitting a lack-luster .202.
That’s the kind of numbers that cause coaches to hesitate when offering a new contract, especially when they’re unsure of a player’s loyalty to staying in Major League Baseball.
However, Fields was eventually offered, and signed, a contract to play in the Dodgers system, most likely beginning the season in Albuquerque. Now that overseas ball is a thing of the past, Fields insists he’s here for the long-run.
“I had an offer to go back to Japan, but I chose not to,” he told ESPN. “My focus is here. This is where I want to be… But I know I’m going to have to hit my way back to the big leagues.”
Hitting .385 in 15 games (tied for most on the team) is a good start for Fields. As is playing enough positions around the diamond you’d think the Dodgers had six guys named Josh Fields.
“He’s been pretty good,” Manager Don Mattingly said. “We’ve been trying different things — first, third, left (last Monday) — and you can’t complain about any of his at-bats.”
An all-around utility fielder seems to be the go-to route for this final roster position. Between Fields, Sellers and Sands, the nonroster invitee is beginning to stake out a small advantage with his versatility. He’ll be able to fill-in across the field, which in-turn will likely create a few more at-bat opportunities as spring training comes to its conclusion.
And although his recent tagline may read “Made in Japan,” Fields assured the entire organization that he wants to be here, battling it out for the last roster opening.
“I’m a Dodger,” Fields said. “I just want to stay healthy and show them what I can do.”
I just hope for curses’ sake, he doesn’t read this.