Substitute teacher Jerry Sands is seeking something more permanent with the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Sands, who was teaching everything from math to physical education to high school and middle school students in North Carolina just days before the start of spring training, has a chance to go from sometime to fulltime if he can prove to the Dodgers that they need his hitting.
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”I want to be the starting left-fielder,” the 24-year-old Sands said Thursday, a few hours after notifying the schools that he won’t be available for at least the next six weeks. ”But no matter where they put me, I’ve got to show I can play.
”I don’t know if I have to win the starting job to be on the opening-day roster. I can’t make that decision. If they gave me the spot off the bench, I wouldn’t be mad about that.”
Sands has done the elementary math. A $480,000 paycheck, the major-league minimum for one season, is a lot better than $80 to $100 a day for substitute teaching.
His chances are a little harder to calculate.
”He is going to have to be getting X-amount of at-bats,” Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said. ”There’s got to be enough at-bats for him to develop, learn.”
The Dodgers’ need for hitting was obvious last season. That’s when Sands was brought in from Triple-A Albuquerque. His impact was immediate. In his major league debut, he doubled. The crowd at Dodger Stadium chanted his name. It’s hard not to like a school teacher. But he began to struggle not long after his notable introduction. His average sank to .200. He was sent back to Albuquerque.
In September, however, Sanders and all of that potential were back. After rejoining the Dodgers on Sept. 6, he hit .343. He had a 14-game hitting streak, a .413 on-base percentage and a .493 slugging percentage. Add it all up and Mattingly sees a promising future.
”This guy is a good player,” Mattingly said. ”It didn’t happen quite as fast as we wanted it to happen. He struggled early. The second time period was a lot better. We still like everything about the kid. He’s really athletic.”
In Sands, Mattingly sees versatility. He can move to first base, a position he played in the Dominican Republic this winter when he wasn’t teaching. His busy offseason also included marriage to his high school sweetheart, Morgan.
”He gives us flexibility with our lineup,” said Mattingly, who is hopeful that Sands can add some pop to Dodger bats that struggled so mightily against left-handers last season.
In September, Sands was 12-for-26, including three doubles and one home run, against lefties.
”I feel like there will be enough at-bats,” Mattingly said. ”But we’ll see.”
NOTES: Outfielder Matt Angle was claimed off waivers Thursday. Angle hit .177 in 31 games for the Baltimore Orioles last season. Mattingly said he didn’t know much about Angle, who spent most of last season at Triple-A Norfolk. ”I know he’s a speed guy,” Mattingly said. ”I don’t know if he would be a guy who’s competing for a spot right now. Let’s just get to know him. See what he can do.” . RHP Jose Ascanio, a non-roster invitee, was waived. Ascanio failed the physical, according to club officials. .RHP Mike MacDougal, 3-1 with a 2.01 ERA last season, has been troubled by some pain near his back. Mattingly said he felt better Thursday. The medical staff will determine how much work MacDougal can do Friday. … Injured RHP Rubby De La Rosa was placed on the 60-day disabled list.