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05/16/12 3:02 AM ET

Sands eager to impress in return to Dodgers

LOS ANGELES -- Dodgers outfielder Jerry Sands would be the first person to admit that at the beginning of this season, his swing needed work.

Uncomfortable at the plate and struggling with his confidence, Sands said he'd go up to the plate trying to remember everything he needed to do.

Yet, as he got into a routine and put in extra work at Triple-A Albuquerque, things began to turn around.

He'll see if that hard work has paid off, as he got the start in left field for Tuesday's game against the D-backs. Sands was recalled on Monday night to take the spot of Matt Kemp, who went on the 15-day disabled list with a strained left hamstring.

"It is all a process," Sands said. "I feel mentally and physically strong and I'm really seeing the ball well. I've changed my approach and am excited to be back. Hopefully I can make a statement and show that I deserve to be here."

Sands said he's adjusted his swing slightly, holding his hands a little higher and having a slight leg kick.

In his last two games with the Isotopes before the callup, he had six hits, including three home runs and four RBIs.

Sands made his Major League debut in 2011 and hit .253 with four homers and 26 RBIs in 61 games for Los Angeles.

"I feel as comfortable now as I did late last season," Sands said. "I'm not overthinking it and mentally feel better in the box."

He hit .257 and ranked second on Albuquerque with seven home runs while leading the Isotopes in RBIs (28) and runs scored (27).

"Hopefully, Jerry has had some time and is now ready to help up here," Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said. "He has been swinging the bat well. The timing is right."

Ethier handles first start in center with ease

LOS ANGELES -- With Matt Kemp on the 15-day disabled list, Dodgers manager Don Mattingly put together his most interesting outfield alignment this season for Tuesday's game against the D-backs.

Most notably, Andre Ethier took Kemp's place in center field, his first career start at the position. He was flanked in left field by Jerry Sands, who was recalled on Monday in place of Kemp, and in right by Scott Van Slyke, who got his first career Major League start.

"It is different, I know," Mattingly said before the Dodgers' 5-1 loss. "I talked to all of them to see how comfortable they were in those positions and all of them were OK with it."

Understanding the differences between center and right, Ethier said he had to make sure to call guys off and get good jumps on balls.

That seemed to be no problem during the game, in which he caught a handful of routine fly balls and made some strong throws from center field.

He even made an a spectacular diving grab on a ball hit by Justin Upton for the third out in the sixth inning.

"It was probably one of the few times that I can remember having butterflies going into a game just because of the anticipation," Ethier said after the game. "I would be lying if I said it didn't feel a little awkward, but I have waited nearly 30 years of my life to play center field in the Majors and it was fun."

Mattingly said Tony Gwynn will start in center for the team's next two games in San Diego because of how expansive the outfield is.

"I've seen the jumps that Andre gets, and since he played center in college and in the Minors, I felt comfortable with it," Mattingly said.

Van Slyke went 0-for-4 in the three-hole, after playing in three games since being called up on Wednesday.

He's already tallied two hits and three RBIs in his time with the Dodgers, becoming the first Dodger to pick up a pinch-hit RBI hit in his first Major League at-bat since 1961.

Worth noting

• Orel Hershiser, the 1988 National League Cy Young Award winner, threw out the ceremonial first pitch before Tuesday's game against the D-backs, which was caught by 2011 Cy Young Award winner Clayton Kershaw. Hershiser was also honored with his first bobblehead.

• Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen has 167 strikeouts through the first 100 innings of his career, the second most all-time behind only Atlanta's Craig Kimbrel (170), according to Elias Sports Bureau.

• Los Angeles has posted a winning record against the NL West every season since 2008 and has the second-best division winning percentage in all of baseball during that span at .584 (178-127). The Dodgers were 13-4 against the NL West this season entering Tuesday's game vs. the D-backs.

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