Two years ago, the Pirates and Los Angeles Dodgers held discussions about a trade. One of the players involved in the talks, manager Clint Hurdle said, was Jerry Sands, then a 23-year-old corner outfielder and first baseman on his way to hitting 29 home runs in 94 games at Class AAA Albuquerque.

Two years and two teams later, Sands joined the Pirates, and in doing so joined the fight for a spot on the bench.

"They said there's going to be some competition and some opportunity out there," Sands said. "They just pretty much told me to come out, play hard and let itself work out."

While playing in the Pacific Coast League with the Dodgers organization, Sands did just about everything he could to earn a chance in the majors, which was impressive considering where he was drafted. The Dodgers selected Sands in the 25th round of the 2008 draft out of Division II Catawba College in Salisbury, N.C., where Sands had set school records in home runs, walks and slugging percentage. Sands signed for $5,000.

He spent a season and a half in rookie ball before breaking out in 2010, when he hit .301 with 35 home runs between Class A and Class AA. Baseball America ranked him the sixth-best prospect in the Dodgers system after the season. He reached the majors not long after the start of the 2011 season and had a .727 on-base-plus-slugging percentage in 61 games but went back to the minor leagues in early June.