The first thing Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said when asked about his lineup for Tuesday night's game against the Diamondbacks told the story.
"Yeah it's different. I know," he said.
For starters, the Dodgers have Andre Ethier in center field for the first time in his career, outside of the 2010 All-Star Game. Mattingly reiterated that he only planned to use Ethier in center field "two or three times" while Matt Kemp is on the disabled list. Tony Gwynn Jr. will be the primary center fielder, and is scheduled to start the next two games in center field in the spacious Petco Park in San Diego.
"T's primarily going to need to be the center fielder. He's too good defensively and brings a lot to the table," Mattingly said. "But I can't go from him not hardly playing to just running him out there every day, and the next thing you know I have no center fielder."
Hitting directly in front of Ethier in the lineup is Scott Van Slyke, who is in right field, making his first major league start. Batting third, for the team with the best record in baseball.
The last Dodger to make his first major league start while batting third was Eric Young, on July 30, 1992.
"I wanted to leave Dre fourth, and Bobby's not in the lineup. I don't really have anyone else I would put there," Mattingly said of Van Slyke. "He was that kind of guy in Triple A."
Van Slyke is batting three spots higher than his father Andy in his big league debut on June 17, 1983, but the younger Van Slyke said he had no bragging rights on his dad.
"He was in the big leagues at age 21," Van Slyke said. "The expectations were a little different."
A.J. Ellis bats fifth for the second game in a row, and is followed by Jerry Sands, who was recalled from Triple A after last night's game. Sands struggled in spring training with his revamped swing, and was optioned to minor league camp on March 27.
"When I was meeting with Donnie as I was getting ready to get sent down, he just said, 'Go down there and get right,' and not to worry about the pressures of making this club or going in and out of big league games," Sands said. "It took a little longer than expected, a little while into the Triple A season before it all started coming together. It's all a process. I had to get right mentally as well as physical."
Sands worked diligently with Isotopes hitting coach John Valentin on yet another swing revision, different than the swing that he had success with in the major leagues in September. Sands said this new swing is a hybrid of his two previous swings, but most importantly he feels comfortable at the plate, which he didn't feel in spring training.
"I couldn't get comfortable in the box, I was pulling off balls. I had to switch some things up," Sands said. "I felt pretty good the last week or two, with the swing change, and my timing and rhythm coming into focus."
- Jerry Hairston Jr. is eligible to return from the disabled list on May 22, next Tuesday, and Mattingly said it is looking like his utility man will be back "within a day or two" of that date. Mattingly said Hairston would likely play a minor league rehab game or two before returning to the Dodgers.
"It makes sense to go play one game, at least, because then if he feels a little something and is not sure about it you don't have to go back two weeks," Mattingly said. "We saw it out here with Matt [Kemp]. You can only do so much testing out here until you get game speed. Game speed is just a different thing and guys will react differently."
- Juan Uribe had an MRI exam on his left wrist Tuesday morning, and Mattingly and the training staff were scheduled to discuss the results with Dr. Neal ElAttrache at some point before game time.
- The Dodgers wore black caps with a silver LA logo during batting practice in support of the Kings' NHL playoff run.
- Jerry Sands will wear number 30, as his number 23 from spring training is now being worn by Bobby Abreu. Elian Herrera is number 37.
Game Time: 7:10 p.m.