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Not so fast on that Opening Day roster

3/11/2012

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- It's still early in spring training, yet, for a Dodgers team that at the start of camp didn't appear to have any significant position battles going on, there could be one starting to brew.

You might recall that just before spring training began, I predicted Justin Sellers possibly could sneak in and steal the final Opening Day roster spot from Jerry Sands because of Sellers' ability to play shortstop, where the Dodgers don't really have a suitable backup for Dee Gordon, and because it certainly isn't going to hurt Sands to go back to Triple-A for a little more seasoning instead of riding the pine in the majors.

I really didn't think that was going to happen, mind you, but it was worth taking a flier on so that if it did, I could say I told you so.

Well, a week into the Cactus League season, perhaps we should look at these offensive numbers for Sands and Sellers:

-- Sands enters Sunday's game against the Chicago Cubs hitting .111 with one hit, a double, and three strikeouts in nine at-bats and 11 plate appearances.

--Sellers enters that game hitting .400 (4-for-10) with a double and one strikeout in 10 at-bats and 13 plate appearances.

Right now, it's a small sample size. But small sample sizes have a way of becoming trends, and this could start to mean something at some point.

Also, a big part of why club officials have Sands penciled onto the Opening Day roster is because the lefty-hitting likes of first baseman James Loney and right fielder Andre Ethier have struggled so mightily in recent years to hit left-handed pitching. Sands is a right-handed batter who hits lefties supremely well and can play both of those positions, but he doesn't hit righties so well. If Loney and Ethier show this spring they have made progress in their efforts to perform better against southpaws, that potentially would be another reason to go with Sellers or someone else over Sands.

"We all like Jerry,'' Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said. "But he is still at a point where he can get better. We know what we're getting with him. We're getting a competitor and a good athlete who can play the corners and play first base.''

But they also know that if Sands isn't on the team, he still will be just a phone call away, ready to jump on a plane at a moment's notice. There is every reason to believe Sands is going to be a solid major league hitter with power. But there isn't necessarily every reason to believe he is going to be that by Opening Day.