It’s a free-for-all in the race to be the fifth Dodger starter, and anybody’s guess about who’s in the lead. Tonight Zach Lee went to the mound against the White Sox with the high hopes that he’ll be able to convince skipper Dave Roberts and everyone else he deserves to be that man.
Lee threw an uneventful and scoreless first inning; things were looking pretty good for the kid’s chances. However, the second inning opened the curtains on Spring Training drama.
The first batter hit a slow breaking ball over the head of Joc Pederson for a ground rule double. Lee then gave up a single and an RBI sacrifice fly that tied the game at one run apiece. This was all against the bottom of the White Sox batting order.
Lee’s breaking ball worked on the next batter, inducing a slow bouncer that Adrian Gonzalez hard-charged from first as the runner broke from third to home. Gonzalez bare-handed the ball on the run and perfectly threw to catcher Austin Barnes, who spun and tagged the sliding runner for the second out. It was a fantastic bang-bang play.
The next batter scorched a bullet to the left of Justin Turner at the hot corner. Turner dove and came up firing, to throw out the runner at first, ending the inning and the threat. The Boys in Blue definitely showed off some ready-for-Opening Day defense in that inning.
The third inning saw Lee and his breaking ball settle down somewhat as he induced two of his three outs with that pitch. I said somewhat because Carlos Lee, the first batter of he inning, sat on that curve and blasted a ground rule double to the wall. Lee never came around to score, but every White Sox batter made contact one way or another with Lee’s pitches.
The 4th saw Lee pass the 50 pitch mark and more contact from the White Sox hitters. By the end of the inning he’d given up one more run and hadn’t struck out anyone.
Skipper Roberts sent him to the mound for the fifth, and Lee responded by quickly retiring the first two batters he faced. That was the end of the night for Zach Lee. After 4 2/3 innings, he put up a line of 8 hits and 2 runs, with no strike outs, and no walks. He kept the damage to a minimum, but there’s no doubt about it, it was the defense that saved his bacon in the second.
Zach Lee doesn’t have any consistent lightning in his fastball. Although he tops out occasionally at 92 mph, he lives in the high 80’s. This means he’s very reliant on his breaking ball and pitch placement. Both of those factors were inconsistent tonight, as he failed to fool most of the batters he faced, and didn’t notch a single strike out.
It seemed every batter fouled off at least two pitches, and Lee didn’t show any kind of a “put away” pitch that would send batters back to the dugout after a third strike. It’s like the kind of outing one would expect from a 15-year journeyman, and not a minor leaguer trying to punch his way into his first major league starting rotation.
At this point, nobody has emerged as a clear leader in the race to be the fifth starter, but Zach Lee looks like Plan B.