Sands re­tains prom­ise de­spite dif­fi­cul­ties

Squir­rels first base­man poised to top .300 for sea­son

Richmond Times-Dispatch Weekend - - Sports - BY CHRIS LIBONATI Rich­mond Times-Dis­patch

When Jerry Sands steps into the bat­ter’s box, he points his bat to­ward the pitcher and ro­tates it front to back twice with one hand. He wraps both hands above the butt of the bat, tucks his hands be­hind his ear and waves the bat once. Be­fore the pitcher winds up, the right- handed bat­ter slowly moves his right el­bow back and forth.

His swing has largely stayed the same. Sands didn’t change it when he wasn’t signed by a ma­jor league team this past off­sea­son and he hasn’t changed it since he ar­rived in Rich­mond.

“I’m not go­ing to change any­thing,” Sands said. “I’ve been swing­ing the bat well.”

Af­ter Sands’ first 20 games with Rich­mond, the first base­man went on the dis­abled list be­cause of an is­sue with the nerves in his el­bow. He was able to get ex­tra rest be­cause of the Al­lS­tar break.

The Fly­ing Squir­rels’ se­ries against the Har­ris­burg Sen­a­tors is his first back. He played Fri­day and Satur­day while he also took bat­ting prac­tice on Thurs­day.

In 22 games for the Squir­rels, Sands has hit .301 and tal­lied eight runs bat­ted in. Be­fore com­ing to the

Squir­rels, Sands had played for the Som­er­set Pa­tri­ots of the At­lantic League— a league with no ma­jor league af­fil­i­ates — and was lead­ing the league with 13 home runs and 45 RBIs when he left. For the first time since 2010, Sands is poised to hit above .300 for a full sea­son. Com­bined be­tween Som­er­set and Rich­mond, Sands is hit­ting .313. The Gi­ants or­ga­ni­za­tion brought in Sands when it pro­moted Chris Shaw from Rich­mond to Sacra­mento, San Fran­cisco’s Triple- A af­fil­i­ate.

On Satur­day, he went 0 for 3 with a walk in the Fly­ing Squir­rels’ 5- 2 loss to the Sen­a­tors. Sands went hit­less for the first time in the last nine games he’s played. In the sev­enth and eighth in­ning, Rich­mond pitch­ers Sam Coon­rod and Ryan Hal­stead gave up five runs to the Sen­a­tors. De­spite sec­ond base­man Myles Schroder’s two- run dou­ble in the bot­tom of the eighth in­ning, the Fly­ing Squir­rels never fully re­cov­ered.

“His best days as a base­ball player are ahead of him, I think,” Fly­ing Squir­rels man­ager Kyle Haines said. “He’s not just a vet­eran guy that used to play in the ma­jor leagues. He’s still got the po­ten­tial go­ing for­ward. He’s played fan­tas­tic. He com­pletely changed our lineup around.”

Be­fore 2017, the Squir­rels first base­man had spent parts of ev­ery sea­son ex­cept 2013 in the ma­jors, hav­ing been a bench player for the Dodgers ( 2011- 12), Rays ( 2014), In­di­ans ( 2015) and White Sox ( 2016).

De­spite his years in the ma­jors as a ro­ta­tional player, Sands knew he’d have to go to an in­de­pen­dent league team once he hadn’t been signed with a team by Jan­uary or Fe­bru­ary. Man­ager Kyle Haines said the team was fa­mil­iar with Sands given his ma­jor league ex­pe­ri­ence and signed him af­ter he bat­ted well with Som­er­set.

Haines said Sands could just as eas­ily play Triple- A base­ball right now, but the or­ga­ni­za­tion’s only open­ing when Sands was signed was in Dou­ble- A. Since, the only por­tion of Sands’ bat­ting that hasn’t been ev­i­dent is his power. In Som­er­set, Sands hit a home run once ev­ery 11 at- bats, but he has yet to hit one in Rich­mond.

In Sands’ third at- bat Fri­day, the first base­man swung through a 3- 2 pitch on the outer half of the plate. He made con­tact on a foul ball ear­lier in the at- bat, but it flew into the up­per deck. Af­ter the strike­out, he slammed his hel­met and gloves into the dirt near home plate and paced around the in­field to his spot at first base as the sixth in­ning be­came the sev­enth.

“Some of these balls are go­ing to leave and go over the fence be­fore too long,” Haines said.

Notes: The Squir­rels and Har­ris­burg ( Washington Na­tion­als) play the fi­nal game of a fourgame set Sun­day at The Di­a­mond at 12: 05 p. m. Rich­mond lefty Nate Reed ( 0- 1, 11.74 ERA)

SHELBY LUM/TIMES-DIS­PATCH

Rich­mond’s Jerry Sands is play­ing his first se­ries since com­ing off the dis­abled iist af­ter be­ing side­lined by a prob­lem with nerves in his el­bow.

12:05 p.m. WRNL (910), 11:35 a.m. Squir­rels to host EL All-Star Game in 2019.

Sun­day: Ra­dio: Page A1:

SHELBY LUM/TIMES-DIS­PATCH

Har­ris­burg third base­man DrewWard­went 0 for 2 in the Sen­a­tors’ road win over the Fly­ing Squir­rels.

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