The Sandman Cometh

When asked why he promoted Jerry Sands, the organization's top hitting prospect to the majors on Monday, Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti answered with a question. "Why not now?" The Dodgers' offense is struggling, ranking last in the National League in runs (52), tied for second-last in home runs (9), third-to-last in on-base percentage (.308), and third-to-last in slugging percentage (.352).

It was only 10 games, but Sands was raking in the Pacific Coast League. He posted a .400/.422/.875 slash line with five home runs and 17 RBI.

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

Sands isn't asked to be the savior or the leader. He's just being asked to provide a spark to an offense that clearly needs it. He did that Monday with a booming double in his first major league at-bat, after the Dodgers already led 3-0, and added a sacrifice fly in a 4-2 win over the Braves.

They didn't promote Sands to sit on the bench, either.

"He's going to play," manager Don Mattingly said. "I'm not going to kill him. But you don't bring a prospect like him up to sit on the bench."

One year ago, Sands was at low-A Great Lakes in the Midwest League. He spent a half season there, skipped the high-A Cal League, and dominated the second half at Class AA Chattanooga. After a stint in the Arizona Fall League, he was promoted after 10 games at Class AAA Albuquerque.

"I was pretty surprised," Sands said. "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."

The ripple effect of Sands' promotion is significant. Xavier Paul was designated for assignment to make room on the 40-man and 25-man roster. Tony Gwynn, Jr. will likely see dramatically less playing time in left field. The only leadoff options are now Jamey Carroll (who rested Monday because he's 1-for-11 against Tim Hudson) and Aaron Miles (who is now 5-for-14 against Hudson after collecting a first-inning single).

When a left-handed pitcher starts, Sands will play first base and James Loney will sit on the bench. Loney delivered a two-run single in the first inning Monday, and he needs to do more of that, because Sands could end up the starting first baseman if Loney's .150 average doesn't go up soon. Marcus Thames, once he's healthy enough, will likely still get starts in left field against lefties when Sands is at first base.

It leaves Jay Gibbons in limbo. Right now, Gibbons is still in the minors trying to get adjusted to new contact lenses. Mattingly says Gibbons has good days and bad days seeing the ball. Gibbons visited with another eye specialist on Monday.

It's possible that Sands is sent back to the minors whenever Gibbons is ready.

It's also possible Sands is the starting left fielder for the next six years.

Mattingly compared Sands' body type to Matt Holliday, noting that both are big guys with broad shoulders, deceptively good speed and athleticism. Sands made numerous impressive catches in spring training, so he's probably better than Holliday defensively.

Sands carries himself the way you might expect a 25th-round pick from tiny Division II Catawba College. He's confident, yet not at all arrogant. He's respectful of teammates, but not shy to approach them and say hello.

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

--OF Xavier Paul was designated for assignment. The Dodgers have 10 days to trade Paul or release him. They'd love to trade Paul for a middle infielder with a good glove, even if he's not much of a hitter.

--LHP Ted Lilly pitched easily his best game of the year, throwing seven scoreless innings with four hits (three singles) and two walks, while striking out six. Lilly's ERA was an even 6.00 entering the game. It was his deepest outing in four starts.

--RF Andre Ethier extended his hitting streak to 15 games, using the last at-bat for the second straight game. Ethier was 0-for-3 when he served a 2-2 pitch into left field for a soft single off Jairo Asencio. Ethier's career-high hitting streak is 16 games from June 26-August 12, 2006 in his rookie year.

--James Loney had a pair of hits and knocked in two runs in the win. Despite his .194 average, he is second in runs batted in with eight, trailing Matt Kemp (13) and leading Andre Ethier (7).

--C Dioner Navarro, on the disabled with a strained oblique that occurred late in training camp, will start a rehab assignment with Class AA Chattanooga on Tuesday. The thinking goes that location puts Navarro closer to where the Dodgers will be on their next road trip (Chicago and Miami).

--LHP Hong-Chih Kuo threw a bullpen session Monday morning for the first time since getting placed on the disabled list with a lower back strain. Considering Kuo's wildness this season -- and that he overcame a case of the "yips" two years ago -- this DL trip is just as much to cure his wildness as to heal his back. Kuo's throws to the bases during pitchers fielding practice Friday were wild, and when he tried to warm up later that night in the bullpen, he couldn't throw a strike.

BY THE NUMBERS: .474 -- the batting average of Matt Kemp through the first 16 games of the season, which is the highest in Dodgers history. Next highest was Paul Lo Duca's .466 after 16 games in 2004. Kemp went 1-for-4 on Monday, dropping his average to .459 for the year.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "I hate to say that, because in this league, you're always in games because of double-switches and things like that. Tony has been good, too, so I hate to say he is just a bench guy. I feel like there are going to be enough at-bats to keep everybody sharp. But for Tony, I would say we probably see him now the same way we saw him at the start of spring training, (sharing time) with (Jay Gibbons) and Marcus (Thames), with Tony being that late-innings guy and getting some starts out there." -- Manager Don Mattingly, on what the promotion of Jerry Sands means for the playing time of Tony Gwynn, Jr.

--LHP Hong-Chih Kuo (lower back strain) was placed on the 15-day disabled list April 16. He threw a bullpen session on April 18.

--SS Rafael Furcal (broken left thumb) went on the 15-day disabled list April 12. He is expected to be out for 4-6 weeks.

--RHP Vicente Padilla (right forearm surgery in February 2011) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to March 22. He felt some soreness after a bullpen session in early April, but resumed throwing soon after. He allowed a run on two hits, a walk and a strikeout over an inning during a rehab outing April 17 for Class A Rancho Cucamonga. The plan is for Padilla to make another one-inning rehab outing on April 19, and he could get activated April 21 or April 22.

--OF Jay Gibbons (blurred vision in left eye) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to March 26. He got new contact lenses in late March, and he began a rehab assignment with Class AAA Albuquerque on April 7.

--C Dioner Navarro (torn right oblique muscle) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to March 22, will start a rehab assignment with Class AA Chattanooga on April 19.