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05/10/11 7:27 PM ET

Sands adjusting to big league pitching

PITTSBURGH -- Fans were clamoring for the call-up of Jerry Sands when he hit .400 with five homers through 10 games at Triple-A Albuquerque.

So the Dodgers called him up and, well, this isn't Albuquerque. Sands is hitting .203 without a home run.

"I expected it to be hard and it is," said Sands. "Obviously, I wanted to get off to a good start. But it hasn't started like I wanted."

Sands believes it isn't so much that he's doing anything wrong, but that Major League pitchers are just that much better than he faced at Triple-A.

"I'm pretty much overall struggling, but I haven't changed anything," he said. "The pitchers here can locate more than one pitch in any count. It's tough to get used to guys who can throw in and out and you can't look for just one pitch.

"I'm still taking good swings, it's just my timing is off a tick, I think that's the main thing. I still think I can hit up here. It's not all about the pitching. This is my first time up and I'm learning a lot every day. I've just got to keep working and get it clicking."

The Dodgers came into the season hoping to get 20 or more home runs from a left-field platoon of Marcus Thames, Jay Gibbons and Tony Gwynn. So far, Thames' two homers are the only ones hit by Dodgers left fielders and both he and Gibbons have been on the disabled list, the latter's injury leading to Sands' promotion.

Kuo: 'I've got to be better'

PITTSBURGH -- What's wrong with Hong-Chih Kuo?

The answer usually is the elbow, which has been operated on four times. But Kuo, who has been struggling, said he "feels alright."

He's been back from the disabled list with back and wildness issues for five appearances, during which he's retired six batters, allowed four hits, walked two, hit a batter and struck out three.

"I've got to be better, that's all," said Kuo.

He's watched video and suggests that some of his trouble is mechanical.


"Of course, but what can I do?" he said. "I have to get better every time.

More frustrating than being hurt?

"It's different," he said. "Before, I just try to stay healthy. Now I'm healthy and I try to focus and pitch better."

Manager Don Mattingly concedes Kuo hasn't been the same left-hander this year that was an All-Star last year, setting the franchise single-season ERA record at 1.20. It's 11.57 this year. "We've got to keep working to get his confidence back," said Mattingly. "We're trying to piece together matchups for him. Last year, the eighth inning was his and then he was closing. We're trying to pick and choose spots differently, match him up with a part of the order against three or four lefties to put him in a better situation."

Mattingly said Kuo has not complained of elbow pain and "once in a while" mentions the back.

"Sometimes you see it with a reliever, [where he] has a couple good years pitching a lot, then there's a year there he's not a sharp, so you worry about that a little bit," said Mattingly.

Blake begins baseball activities

PITTSBURGH -- Disabled Dodgers third baseman Casey Blake has shed the brace and extensive wrapping on his left elbow and began baseball activities Tuesday, playing catch for the first time since undergoing surgery for a staph infection.

Blake still had the surgical site covered with a butterfly bandage and said he still must be careful not to get the area dirty or sweaty until the remaining stitches are removed.

Blake had surgery to remove an infected bursa sac April 28 and is expected to miss six weeks. He opened the season on the disabled list with an inflamed thoracic disk.

Manager Don Mattingly said Blake's absence is indirectly one of the reasons Tony Gwynn is getting less playing time in left field despite the disabling injury to Marcus Thames. Rookie Jerry Sands has had most of the playing time, even though he's hitting only .203 without a home run.

"You talk about punch and driving in runs. If our lineup is different, you got Casey, you're willing to have another pinger," Mattingly said. "We're playing with three or four pingers, a guy who gets his hits and plays a small-ball game. There's places for that. But unless you're on turf and the guys can fly, we've talked with Tony and he's frustrated, but with our lineup the way it is, we've got to score runs and we need the punch and that's hurting him a little bit."

Infielder Juan Castro was activated at Triple-A Albuquerque. He spent Spring Training with the Dodgers but failed to make the club as a non-roster invitee.

The Dodgers also released Albuquerque journeyman pitcher Jon Huber.

Dodgers to have 30-hour sale of $30 tickets

PITTSBURGH -- In recognition of outfielder Andre Ethier's recent 30-game hitting streak, the Dodgers announced Tuesday a special $30 ticket, 30-hour sale for the May 16 game against the Milwaukee Brewers.

From 4 p.m. Tuesday until 10 p.m. Wednesday, any field level ticket for the game will cost $30, which represents up to a 75 percent discount for seats which cost as much as $120 at face value.

Tickets can be bought at dodgers.com/tickets with the promo code STREAK or at the Dodger Stadium box office during normal business hours. Also on May 16, all Ethier merchandise will be 30 percent off when purchased at the stadium.

Ethier became the second player in franchise history to have a 30-game hitting streak, joining Willie Davis, whose 31-game hitting streak came in 1969. Ethier batted .397 (46-for-116) during the streak, which began back on April 2. His 26 straight games in April with a hit established a Major League record for the longest hitting streak during that month, passing Joe Torre's 22-game streak from April 1971.

Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.