Sands retains promise despite difficulties
Squirrels first baseman poised to top .300 for season
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)
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:
Harrisburg third baseman DrewWardwent 0 for 2 in the Senators’ road win over the Flying Squirrels.