He finishes the year with a .292/.368/.421 batting line to go along with 11 homers, 62 RBI and a .789 OPS over 551 plate appearances. While the Dodgers could decide to shop him over the winter, we will likely see plenty of Jerry Sands in the outfield for the rest of September.
Final weeks will be like a tryout camp
All things considered, the Dodgers are pretty fortunate that Wednesday was only their second rainout of the season and first of the four-city, 11-game road trip. Rain was in the forecast for their makeup game Thursday in Pittsburgh, all weekend in Atlanta, and all week in D.C. They weren't expected to get Tuesday's game in but did, getting delayed for only 31 minutes in the seventh inning.
The washout Wednesday was announced early in the day, before the teams bothered getting to the ballpark, and a traditional doubleheader will take place Thursday starting at 1 p.m. ET.
With the arrival of three new September call-ups on Tuesday, manager Don Mattingly will have no shortage of choices in that doubleheader or the rest of the season.
Mattingly is on record that he'd like to see one of those call-ups, Jerry Sands, play a lot the final 21 games. That will cost Tony Gwynn Jr. a bunch of playing time, and it will mean less playing time for Juan Rivera and Andre Ethier as well.
It's also possible that once Double-A Chattanooga's playoffs ends, additional hitting prospects could join the roster.
Not a lot can be learned from three weeks of games, especially if the opposition is also playing September call-ups, but the Dodgers need to decide going into the offseason if they can count on Sands beginning next season in the majors.
They hope the answer is yes.
Sands tried the task of overhauling his swing, while still putting up big numbers, after getting sent down to Triple-A Albuquerque on June 10. Sands admitted it was a work in progress. He'd feel comfortable in his first at-bat and then out of sorts the rest of the game. Then he'd feel good a full game and not the next game.
Where that leads him is anybody's guess.
Overall, Sands still hit 29 home runs and drove in 88 runs for the Isotopes -- and that's in just 94 games, since he was in the majors for almost two months.
But his road-home splits are not encouraging.
After getting sent down, Sands batted .341 with 16 home runs, 50 RBI and a .706 slugging in hitter-friendly Albuquerque. On the road, he batted just .181 with eight homers, 21 RBI and a .388 slugging percentage.
Sands' ability to play the corner outfield positions and first base is a bonus. The Dodgers must make tough decisions on whether to non-tender first baseman James Loney, go after a big free agent whale like Brewers first baseman Prince Fielder, think about the future of Ethier when he becomes a free agent after the 2012 season, and decide whether to bring back Rivera.
The decision on first base impacts catcher. If the Dodgers can somehow find the funds for Fielder, they'll have to go young (and cheap) at many other positions.
That would ensure Dee Gordon is the starter at shortstop, open the door for Justin Sellers to win a job at second base, and could lead to a catching combo of A.J. Ellis and Tim Federowicz.
For the next few days, Federowicz will catch bullpens and get acclimated to the majors. Then he's expected to share playing time with Ellis the final couple of weeks. Like Sands, it'll be hard to gauge how ready he is, based on such a small sample size. If nothing else, it gets him acclimated.
John Ely is already acclimated to the majors. At this point, the Dodgers know what they have with him. He's a good guy, a control pitcher without much on his fastball, and he got knocked around pretty bad in the minors this year.
Ely will be a long reliever, there to bail out a starter if he gets hurt or knocked out early, or the last man standing in the bullpen.
Strasburg's Comeback is Lesson for Dodgers
The return of Stephen Strasburg was the biggest story in baseball on Tuesday, and the Dodgers were excited to be part of it.
"I think you want to see the best guys out there," Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said. "Guys like this are fun to play against."
But it also provides a road map for their own pitching phenom with a fastball that hits triple digits, Rubby De La Rosa, as he returns from the same Tommy John surgery.
Strasburg made a triumphant return to the majors, tossing five scoreless innings with no walks, two hits and four strikeouts in an efficient 56 pitches for the Nationals.
The score was 3-0 when Strasburg departed, 3-3 during a rain delay that lasted 29 minutes in the seventh inning, Rod Barajas' two-run double in the eighth gave the Dodgers a 5-3 lead, and Andre Ethier's two-run double in the ninth made it a 7-3 Dodgers win at Nationals Park.
Strasburg returned one year and three days after undergoing the ligament-replacement elbow surgery. Edinson Volquez returned one year and two weeks after his surgery. Tim Hudson was back in one year and three weeks. Jordan Zimmerman needed one year and one week to return to the majors.
De La Rosa underwent the surgery on Aug. 9, so it's reasonable the Dodgers can expect him for the final month of the 2012 season, perhaps the last six weeks. Whether De La Rosa returns as a starter or reliever is a decision that doesn't need to be made until July.
The Dodgers will likely begin the season with a starting rotation of Clayton Kershaw, Chad Billingsley, Ted Lilly and Nathan Eovaldi. They hope Hiroki Kuroda, a free agent, returns to the United States for a fifth season and joins the other four.
If not, they need to sign another veteran starting pitcher. They might even need to sign two starters, since Eovaldi is so young and inexperienced.
Part of the Dodgers' decision making will involve whether to expect De La Rosa back sometime in August, hope he can contribute in August, or assume they'll get nothing from him and be pleasantly surprised with whatever he provides.
Strasburg will make four starts the final month. The Nationals are limiting him to 60 pitches per start. In part, this is because the Nationals are not in playoff contention, so there's no reason to overuse their $15.1 million investment who was the first overall pick in the 2009 draft.
That's part of the equation for the Dodgers to consider next season, when they're deciding on bringing De La Rosa back as a starter or reliever. The decision probably will be based more on the needs of the team.
De La Rosa has no shortage of teammates who can guide him through the process with their own story.
Carlos Monasterios had it a few weeks before him, and they're rehabbing together in Arizona. Javy Guerra had it in the minors. Nathan Eovaldi had it in high school (and returned nine months later). Hong-Chih Kuo had it twice, plus two cleanup elbow surgeries.
--LHP Ted Lilly struck out nine batters in five innings but walked three, and that led to a whopping 105 pitches and an early exit. Three of those hits came in a three-run second inning, and a throwing error by Lilly on a sacrifice bunt made one of those runs unearned.
--CF Matt Kemp picked up another RBI, giving him a tie for the league lead at 107, on a sharply hit single to shortstop Ian Desmond.
--INF/OF Jerry Sands, C Tim Federowicz and RHP John Ely were called up from Triple-A Albuquerque after their season ended. They joined the Dodgers on Tuesday in D.C.
--OF Tony Gwynn Jr. was told that his playing time will be diminished the rest of the season, and so will RF Andre Ethier's to a lesser extent. Manager Don Mattingly wants to give Jerry Sands an extended look the final month, and there could be additional promotions from the outfield ranks when Double-A Chattanooga's playoff run ends.
--3B Casey Blake underwent successful neck surgery on Tuesday by Dr. James Watkins, Jr. He'll spend overnight in the hospital and remain in a neck brace for a few weeks. Blake has said previously he doesn't plan on retiring, and doctors believe he'll be ready by spring training. However, it might not be with the Dodgers.
--INF/OF Eugenio Velez extended his hitless streak to 0-for-31 by grounding out as a pinch hitter in the ninth inning Tuesday. It was Velez's first at-bat since Aug. 31. Velez is 0-for-40 in the majors, dating to last season, which is five at-bats shy of tying the major league record of futility by a position player.
--LHP Dana Eveland, who was scheduled to start Wednesday, will start the first game of today's doubleheader. RHP Chad Billingsley will start the second game.
--INF Juan Uribe underwent surgery to repair a left sports hernia on Thursday. The surgery was performed by Dr. Craig Smith in Los Angeles. Uribe is expected to start his rehab within the next two weeks, and it should take 6-8 weeks. Uribe is signed through the 2013 season, and it's anticipated he'll report to spring training in 2012 ready to compete.
--INF Ivan De Jesus Jr. was not called up to the majors for a second straight September, which makes it pretty obvious he's not in the Dodgers' future plans. The knock last September was a bad attitude. He rebounded from that tag and made the Opening Day roster but barely played in two stints in the majors (going 6-for-32). Clearly, he's been passed on the depth chart by Justin Sellers, and it makes you wonder if De Jesus Jr. will be traded this offseason.
--RHP Stephen Fife will start Thursday for Double-A Chattanooga in the opener of their best-of-5 playoffs series against Brooks Raley of Tennessee. RHP Chris Withrow starts Game 2 against Ryan Searle. RHP Allen Webster goes in Game 3 against Trey McNutt.
BY THE NUMBERS: 30
-- Doubles this year by Andre Ethier (who has been shutdown for the rest of the season) after hitting a two-run double in the ninth inning Tuesday. It's the fifth 30-plus double season for Ethier in his career. Only four Dodgers have more seasons with 30 or more doubles: Zack Wheat, Dixie Walker, Jackie Robinson and Steve Garvey. All had six.
BY THE NUMBERS: 9
-- Consecutive seasons that lefty Ted Lilly has won 10 or more games in the majors. Lilly was denied his 10th victory in Tuesday's game. He'll likely have four more chances to get his 10th win. Mark Buehrle and CC Sabathia are the only other left-handers to accomplish the feat in the same time.
QUOTE TO NOTE:
"I want to see Jerry play more. Jerry's going to play quite a bit. I think we have to give him a (chance), see if he makes adjustments. That will help us make decisions at the end of the year." -- Manager Don Mattingly, on the playing time of Tuesday call-up Jerry Sands from Triple-A Albuquerque.
QUOTE TO NOTE:
"Have I seen guys who throw harder than him or seem that the ball comes faster? Yeah, I have. I think what makes him special are the secondary pitches. Everybody knows he has that good curveball, and he's got that great changeup, also." -- Dodgers catcher Rod Barajas, impressed by the performance of Stephen Strasburg, in his return to the majors Tuesday, after Tommy John surgery 368 days earlier.
*M*A*S*H* 4077 MEDICAL WATCH
--INF Juan Uribe (abdominal strain) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to July 24 with what originally was called a left hip strain. Uribe was taking batting practice every day in mid-August, but he hadn't improved enough to be able to run the bases. He got a cortisone shot to numb his left hip. He underwent season-ending surgery to repair a sports hernia on Sept. 7.
--RHP Jonathan Broxton (bone bruise on right elbow) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to May 4. He threw a bullpen session June 7. He made rehab appearances on June 21 and 23 for Class AAA Albuquerque, but he felt tightness in his elbow when playing catch June 25, and he was shut down from throwing. He was cleared to begin a throwing program in early August, and he might be able to return some time this month.
--RHP Rubby De La Rosa (sprained ulnar collateral ligament in right elbow) went on the 15-day disabled list Aug. 1. He underwent season-ending Tommy John surgery Aug. 9.
--RHP Vicente Padilla (right radial nerve irritation, sore neck) went on the 15-day disabled list May 14 due to the arm injury. He began a rehab assignment with Class A Rancho Cucamonga on May 29, but he was shut down in early June due to a neck ailment. He underwent neck surgery June 16, and will miss the rest of the season.
--RHP Jon Garland (right shoulder inflammation) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to June 2. He played catch June 21 but had to shut it down quickly. He underwent season-ending surgery during the All-Star break and began his rehab.
ROTATION: LHP Clayton Kershaw RHP Chad Billingsley LHP Ted Lilly RHP Hiroki Kuroda LHP Dana Eveland BULLPEN: RHP Javy Guerra RHP Kenley Jansen RHP Matt Guerrier RHP Nathan Eovaldi LHP Scott Elbert RHP Mike MacDougal LHP Hong-Chih Kuo RHP Blake Hawksworth RHP Josh Lindblom RHP Ramon Troncoso RHP John Ely CATCHERS: Rod Barajas A.J. Ellis Tim Federowicz INFIELDERS: 1B James Loney 2B Jamey Carroll SS Dee Gordon 3B Aaron Miles INF Casey Blake INF/OF Eugenio Velez INF Justin Sellers INF Russ Mitchell OUTFIELDERS: LF Tony Gwynn Jr. CF Matt Kemp RF Andre Ethier OF Juan Rivera OF Trent Oeltjen INF-OF Jerry Sands