Sands Of Doubt

Mar. 6, 2012; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Los Angeles Dodgers first baseman Jerry Sands (23) during the second inning of a spring training game against San Francisco Giants at Camelback Ranch. Mandatory Credit: Jennifer Hilderbrand-US PRESSWIRE

For most of the spring, when talking of Jerry Sands, Dodgers manager Don Mattingly has spoken of trying to get Sands enough at-bats in the big leagues as to not hinder his development (versus playing everyday in Triple A), and has for the most part sounded like a manager who was convincing himself to make that happen.

On Sunday Mattingly talked again about how he doesn't like a straight platoon for either Andre Ethier and James Loney, but this in itself is not news. The question will be will those two be sat often enough to create the needed playing time for Sands to necessitate his roster spot.

For the first time all spring, Mattingly cast some doubt on whether or not Sands will capture an opening day roster spot.

"We all like Jerry, but he's at a point where he can still get better. It's not like he's a five-year veteran; we don't know quite what we're going to get yet from Jerry. We know we get a competitor, we know we get a good athlete who can play first and corner outfield," said Mattingly. "He has hit lefties pretty well, but struggled on the other side with the righties. I think he can do that, but still remains to be seen."

Mattingly still believes Ethier and Loney can hit lefties, based on their swings, but history suggests otherwise. Ethier in his career has hit .242/.302/.359 against southpaws, including .220/.258/.305 last season. Ethier hit .351/.378/.468 against southpaws in his rookie year in 2006, and his OPS has gone done every single year since, including an OPS under .700 in each of the last four seasons. Over those last four years, Ethier has hit .221/.290/.338 against lefties, in 671 plate appearances.

Loney is essentially the same, hitting .252/.309/.368 against lefties in his career, and .213/.254/.307 last season.

Mattingly, himself a left-handed hitter during his playing career, says there are advantages to hitting against left-handers, even if the results don't always show it. "I think hitting lefties as a left-handed hitter makes me better against a righty. It keeps me in there longer, helps me stay on the ball better, and helps against the other side," said Mattingly.

The only question will be a matter of degree, and how often Ethier and Loney sit against southpaws will directly affect whether or not Sands is on the roster.

Cautious With Ethier

Andre Ethier was scratched on Saturday with mid-back stiffness, and is also out today, though today was a scheduled day off anyway. Ethier has no restrictions, but Mattingly said the Dodgers would be cautious with his right fielder. Ethier is scheduled to start Monday in Tempe agianst the Angels, but if he experiences any sort of similar back stiffness the Dodgers will play it safe.

Today's Game

Ted Lilly makes his second start of the spring today, facing the Chicago Cubs. Matt Garza starts for the Cubs.

Also scheduled to pitch for the Dodgers are Matt Guerrier, Mike MacDougal, Todd Coffey, and John Grabow.

Starting Lineups

Cubs Dodgers
RF DeJesus DH Gwynn
2B Baker 2B Ellis
SS Castro 1B Loney
3B DeWitt LF Sands
CF Byrd 3B Uribe
LF Johnson RF Oeltjen
C Castillo C Federowicz
1B Rizzo SS Sellers
P Garza CF Angle

Old friend Blake DeWitt bats cleanup today for Chicago.

Justin Sellers, who took a ball off the chin in Saturday's day game in Peoria, was checked out yesterday and cleared to play today, complete with a battle scar on his chin. Sellers is batting eighth.

Scheduled reserves for the Dodgers today are Ivan DeJesus Jr., Alex Castellanos (at second base), Jeff Baisley, Cory Sullivan, Josh Fields, Scott Van Slyke, Gorman Erickson, and Luis Cruz.

Game Time: 12:05 p.m. PST

TV: Prime Ticket (Charley Steiner & Rick Monday)

Radio: KLAC 570 AM

MLB Gameday

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