Los Angeles Dodgers pitching prospect Zach Lee set his goals high after finding out he’d been invited to his first major league camp this season. The 22-year-old LSU quarterback turned starting pitcher has been hyped for several years as the next great ace, but his time in the minor leagues has changed expectations.
Heading into Spring Training, the Dodgers had questions at the back end of their rotation since Josh Beckett was coming off major surgery and Chad Billingsley was on the road to recovery from Tommy John surgery. Thus, Lee set the goal of winning the fifth spot, but a strained lat put those plans on hold.
After his spring debut this afternoon, manager Don Mattingly had high praise for Lee according to Kevin Baxter of the LA Times:
He just looks like he belongs. Around the clubhouse and around the field he kind of does everything well. With Zach, you see more of the old-style kid coming up. Quiet in the clubhouse, goes about his business, just working on his game all the time. We like everything about him.
Against the Texas Rangers this afternoon, Lee threw two scoreless innings, allowing just two hits and striking out one. He worked around a leadoff double from Shin-Soo Choo in the first inning before turning the game over to the bullpen.
The signings of both Dan Haren and Paul Maholm coupled together with the progress made by Beckett and Billingsley don’t give Lee much of a chance of cracking the rotation out of camp. He’s spent the last two seasons at Double A Chattanooga and it’s assumed he’ll spend the beginning of 2014 at Triple A Albuquerque.
However, Lee wants people to notice him and if someone should falter, give him a chance at the next level via Baxter:
I just kind of wanted to prove to people and prove to some of the coaches and upper management, if they wanted to give me a chance, I’d be ready and willing to do it. Obviously now it’s more kind of about making impressions and kind of trying to be the guy who can be the next one up.
Friday was definitely a step in the right direction and it’s possible if someone falters, Lee is the guy that gets the call in the big leagues.
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