Lee settled in quickly Sunday, pitching two scoreless innings in the Dodgers’ eventual 5-2 Cactus League victory over the San Francisco Giants, making quality use of Brett Anderson's spot in the rotation. Lee’s opportunity to start came when Anderson underwent arthroscopic back surgery last week.
Lee has made just one major league appearance, when he was roughed up by the New York Mets in a midseason start last season, but he feels he is ready to be a part of the mix now.
“I would hope so,” Lee said. “I felt like last year I did a real good job of having a great year and establishing myself as another valuable option. Hopefully I’m brought up in that mix and should be able to hopefully contribute sooner rather than later.”
Lee’s major league debut might have been a rough one, but he went 13-6 in 23 minor league starts last season, posting a 2.63 ERA. Since being drafted in the first round in 2010, Lee has slowly climbed through the organization’s ranks, but a potential breakthrough is both close yet so far away.
Mike Bolsinger and Brandon Beachy might actually have a better chance at grabbing the Dodgers’ last rotation spot. And then Hyun-Jin Ryu and Brandon McCarthy are both on track to return by the all-star break.
Lee is the rare first-round pick that continues to get lost in the shuffle six years later. It can be a frustrating proposition, but the Dodgers aren’t about handing out favors, they are willing to reward what is earned.
“As long as I had a fair opportunity, I don’t know if I would necessarily be frustrated,” Lee said. “I feel like if I didn’t really get an opportunity to try to prove myself, then I would probably be a little frustrated, but at the same standpoint, it’s not really my decision to make. It’s the people up top and they know what they want to do and is best for the organization.”
The knock on Lee is that despite a four-pitch mix, he doesn't have that one pitch he can dominate games with. His chances at success will rely on consistency. His efforts to impress might take a little longer, but Sunday’s start gives the Dodgers a baseline from which to work with this spring.
“I don’t think he has one wipe-out pitch that might wow you,” Roberts said. “But when his command is good, when he’s down in the zone and working the cutter, the change and the sinker, changing eye levels with the fastball up, there’s some things he can do. When Zach’s right, he gets major league hitters out.”