Reporting from Phoenix — Jerry Sands was awakened at 4:30 a.m. on Thursday by a phone call.
The automated call was from the Johnston County School District in North Carolina, where the second-year outfielder worked as a substitute teacher in the off-season. He was informed there was a shift available.
“I have to call them and tell them I’m not in town,” Sands said. “I have to get it out of the way so they quit calling me. There’s a couple hours difference.”
Until about two weeks ago, as he had in previous winters, Sands taught English and math a couple of times a week in the district’s middle and high schools. But in previous winters, Sands wasn’t expected to make the Dodgers’ opening-day roster as a substitute outfielder, which would entitle to him a major league salary. The league minimum is $480,000.
“It was a little something to do,” Sands said of teaching.
Sands kept busy all winter. He got married and also played a month in the Dominican Republic’s winter league.
Sands reported to camp with the goal of becoming the Dodgers’ starting left fielder, a position that is expected to be filled by veteran Juan Rivera. Sands hit .253 with four home runs and 56 runs batted in over 61 games in two separate stints in the majors last season. His second call-up was better than his first — he batted .342 with two homers and nine RBIs in 20 games in September.
Manager Don Mattingly has talked about Sands as a right-handed-hitting alternative to Andre Ethier or James Loney on days the Dodgers face left-handed pitching. Ethier plays right field and Loney first base.
“If they gave me that spot, I wouldn’t be mad about it,” Sands said.
Sands was 22 for 60 (.367) with three home runs and 14 runs batted in against left-handers last season. Ethier hit .220 against left-handers and Loney .213.
But Mattingly said it’s important for the Dodgers to get Sands regular at-bats if they keep him on the major league roster instead of sending him to the minors, where he could play regularly.
“There has to be enough at-bats not to retard his progress,” Mattingly said.
Clayton Kershaw is scheduled to throw his first bullpen session of the spring Friday and remains on track to make his first exhibition start March 9. Kershaw’s bullpen session was originally planned for Wednesday but was pushed back because of mild stiffness in his back.
The Dodgers claimed outfielder Matt Angle off waivers from the Baltimore Orioles. To clear a place on the 40-man roster, the team moved right-hander Rubby De La Rosa to the 60-day disabled list.
Angel, 26, spent most of last season with triple-A Norfolk. He played in 31 major league games. He hit only .177 but stole 11 bases in 12 attempts.
Reliever Mike MacDougal’s bullpen session was scrapped Thursday, a day after he felt something unusual in his back during a fielding drill. … Non-roster right-hander Jose Ascanio failed his entrance physical and is no longer in camp.