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Sands is set to make an impact with Pirates

| Tuesday, Jan. 8, 2013, 7:22 p.m.
Christopher Horner
Pirates first baseman/outfielder Jerry Sands takes batting practice Tuesday Jan. 8, 2013 during minicamp at Pirate City in Bradenton, Fla. Sands was acquired from Boston in a trade for closer Joel Hanrahan. Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Christopher Horner
Pirates infielder Ivan DeJesus Jr. shares a laugh with shortstop Clint Barmes Monday, Jan. 7, 2013, during minicamp at Pirate City in Bradenton, Fla. Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review

BRADENTON, Fla. — Jerry Sands wants this season to be a pivotal point in his career.

The enormity of the challenge of becoming a full-fledged big leaguer can be a scary thing for some players. But after putting together five successful seasons in the minors — and being traded twice in the past three months — Sands believes he is ready to win a spot on the Pirates' roster.

“I hope so,” Sands said. “I've had a couple good years in the minors. Not that there's nothing left to prove there, but the big leagues is where I want to be. I need to take that step up. I'm getting a fresh start with a new team, so I've got to show these guys what I've got.”

In October, Sands was one of two players named later from the August trade that sent Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford from the Boston Red Sox to the Los Angeles Dodgers. On Dec. 26, the Pirates acquired Sands and three others from Boston in the Joel Hanrahan swap.

Once upon a time, Sands expected to work out with some of his Dodgers teammates in early January. Then, he changed his plans to attend the Red Sox's minicamp. But, he wound up in Bradenton, Fla., where Tuesday he mashed home runs during batting practice on Clemente Field.

“It was all a little bit crazy,” Sands said of his unexpected journey from the West Coast to Florida's Gulf Coast. “I'm excited to get with a new group of guys and get to work.”

Sands launched two balls that arced over the tall chain-link outfield fence and crash-landed on the roof of the batting cages beyond left field. He's hit just four homers in 70 big league games but went deep 119 times in the minors.

“I'd like to be a power hitter because that can take you a long way,” Sands said. “But I don't want to be one of those guys who has power but doesn't do anything else. I'd like to be an all-around hitter who uses power to my advantage.”

Sands, 25, can play right field and first base, meaning he will compete for playing time with Garrett Jones, Gaby Sanchez, Travis Snider and Jose Tabata. It's possible one or two of those players could be traded, which would clear up the picture of who starts where for the Pirates. Sands is open to playing either position.

“If you'd have asked me a couple of years ago, I would've said outfield,” Sands said. “But I've been playing first base quite a bit these past few years. I've played outfield most of my life, so I probably have another step or two out there, as compared to first base. But I feel comfortable at either spot.”

Taillon on track

Jameson Taillon, who just seven weeks ago turned 21, made steady progress toward the majors last summer. The right-hander went 6-8 with a 3.82 ERA and 1.168 WHIP at High-A Bradenton and 3-0 with a 1.59 ERA and 0.706 WHIP at Double-A Altoona.

“It was an interesting year,” Taillon said. “I had a real good start in Bradenton, then kind of hit a wall for a bit. I learned a lot there about myself. Eventually, I got the callup to Double-A. It was only for a month or so, but it was really big for me to see how it is. I felt like I took a big step, on and off the field, as a professional player.”

Taillon almost likely will begin the 2013 season at Altoona.

Rob Biertempfel is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at or via Twitter @BiertempfelTrib.

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