Did Zach Lee Make His Case To Be The Fifth Starter?

Zach Lee

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.

Oscar Martinez

Oscar Martinez

I was born in the shadow of Dodger Stadium and immediately drenched in Dodger Blue. Chavez Ravine is my baseball cathedral, Vin Scully was the golden voice of summer all my life, and Tommy Lasorda remains the greatest Dodgers manager ever. My favorite things are coffee, beer, and the Dodgers beating the Giants. I also blog about my baseball card hobby at All Trade Bait, All the Time.

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35 thoughts on “Did Zach Lee Make His Case To Be The Fifth Starter?

  1. Not a great outing, but he did limit the damage and in his defense, some of those balls were not hit hard enough to break glass. Bigger concern was Pederson reverting to his big swing and being called out twice on strikes. Bellinger and Calhoun homered, Crawford, Gonzo and Turner all had 2 hits…..all in all not a bad night. Frias still looks like the guy, although they say Stripling has a shot. Abreu took Blanton so deep the ball has not landed yet…..

    1. Blanton didn’t do any better locking down a relief job than Lee did for a starter job.

      Bellinger and Calhoun are knocking at the door. Turner is absolutely awesome.

  2. My takes on last night’s game:

    Zach Lee is who I though he is: A AAAA pitcher. He doesn’t miss many bats. The only way he makes it at this level is if he develops another pitch.

    I look for Justin Turner to have a career year… maybe a monster year. 25 HR/100 RBI/.320 BA or some such stuff. It’s his FA year and he is running and moving better than I have ever seen him move.

    Crawfish is starting to hit – that’s when he gets injured! If he didn’t get on base, he might stay healthy.

    I remain hopeful, but skeptical about Pederson.

    Cody Bellinger might be ready NEXT year!

    Jamey Wright has his ERA down to a snazzy 12.15.

    Orel nailed it – Maybe Joe Blanton shouldn’t pitch in Arizona or for that matter… Colorado! No bite to his stuff or maybe I should say his stuff bites there.

    For those of you who think Spring Training Games are important, Does that mean that the Cubs are not going to the World Series, since they have a 8-16 record this Spring? You can’t have it both ways. We are talking about “FACTS.”

    1. Bellinger might well be ready, but there is a HUGE roadblock in front of him. Adrian Gonzalez. He has 2 years left on his deal, and you can bet the farm he finishes them with the Dodgers.

      1. The timetable on Bellinger is not ’17. He hit .264 in A ball last year. He’s 20 years old. Gonzalez is here until the end of the ’18 season. If Cody tears it up in AA this year, it’s possible the team could try to move AGon to an AL team before his contract is up.

        But, it is interesting that we are already discussing ’17. Does that mean ’18 is around the corner?

  3. Whenever talking about a series to be determined in 7 months the smart money takes the field.

    That said I think the Cubs are, and should be, the favorites to win the NL Pennant.

    Lee? If he is the 5th starter it lessens the odds for Dodgers. I don’t believe he is, or ever was, a quality ML pitcher. Another bad pick as far as I’m concerned. I always thought he should have played football, but $5 million is a lot of money.

    Pederson looks slow and bullheaded to me. I’m very disappointed in what I’ve seen so far. Doesn’t mean he won’t figure it out. Maybe Roberts has the patience that will be required. I don’t. If it’s me I have already told him he shows me he is listening by shortening his swing after strike 1. Otherwise he starts the season in OKC or Cleave-land. We have options for the outfield.

    Blanton and Wright don’t look like all that. Coleman does.

    The way this team is constructed, and the way they are playing, I see a .500 ball club. I also see additional moves being made to make this a more competitive team.

    1. I can’t see where Pederson is any slower than he was last year. His thighs looker stronger/bigger.

      It looks like he had some success making contact with short swings and going to the opposite field and let that success to give him the confidence to expand his swing. Hopefully his lack of success with the expanded swing will lead him back to the shorter swing and going to the opposite field.

      Turner might just win the MVP award this year.

      Hopefully Bellinger starts out the year at AA and moves to AAA mid season due to success at AA. If he also does well at AAA, he very well could find himself on the Dodgers in 2017 somewhere, beit 1st base or the outfield. Either way, there will need to be some trading to make that happen.

      1. I wish they would have Kazmir pitch in a game, that everyone can see. I don’t think we are going to see Kazmir pitch, until the regular season begins. I wish they were showing the Tuesday game, that Stripling is pitching next week. I want to see him pitch five innings, and see what he does. He is doing a couple of things, that Lee isn’t doing. Stripling is getting a lot of strike outs, and pitching scoreless innings.

  4. The Cubs have fewer question marks and fewer injuries, so I think their spring record is even less important than ours. Bellinger could be in RF at some point before 2018 if Puig can’t stay healthy. Micah Johnson may be playing center in OKC to put give Joc some incentive.

    1. I am guessing that Bellinger is more likely to be the Dodger CF than Johnson will ever be should Pederson, well, lets not go there.

  5. Good thinking guys. Bellinger could go to the outfield if he tears up AA. It’s a crowded house out there, but that will be all cleared out by 2018.

    I’m seeing a different Pederson than you are Bum. His outfield play has looked odd to me and I’ve seen way too much wild swinging and missing. This is the time, these are the at bats to show he is doing something about his contact rate and I dont see it. He’s striking out more now! 20 K’s in 46 at bats is ludicrous. This from a guy who hit .178 the second half of last year. There is a serious problem going on with this kid and he had better get it fixed or he is gone.

    1. I think we are seeing the same Pederson Badger but are processing what we see differently. I think he is being cautious on defense and that is a great idea on this team for the pre-season. Speed wise, I have no way of knowing if he is slower or just running in a way that protects hamstrings, etc.

      His strikeouts are ludicrous, we agree there. His refusal to stay with a swing plan is upsetting. If Joc gets to start the first 35 games and he is still striking out 30%+ and hitting less than 230, then I will be more than ready to pull back from Joc. But, Thompson is doing worse and I have no appetite for Puig, Ethier, SVS or a Heisey to take his place in CF. The Dodgers need Joc and therefore I will always put positive thoughts into the ether to give him and the Dodgers all I have to offer.

  6. Happy Easter, Ladodgerreport board.

    Thank you GOD, for the amazing gift of an opportunity to watch an eternity of Dodger baseball while listening to Vinny the whole time. Please forgive me for thinking the last 28 years has been an eternity.

    AMEN

  7. IMHO the players whose stock is going down include Grandal, Kendrick, Hernandez, Thompson.

    IMHO the players whose stock is going up include Bellinger, Calhoun, Barnes, Maeda, Turner, Segeden, Culbertson, Hatcher, Baez, Coleman.

    IMHO the players whose stock is going sideways include Pederson, Puig, Kazmir, Lee,

    1. It is kind of weird how they are handling Grandal. There seems to be more then just his wrist. And it is like they are pushing Barnes over Grandal. They haven’t said that, but it just feels that way.
      Barnes is not hitting the ball, like he was, now that they are seeing more real major league pitchers.

      And It is getting old, seeing Howie on the DL, because he was on the DL at the end of the season last year, and has been on the DL twice, already in spring training. I know when Howie gets out there, he is going to get his hits, and hit some runs in. But his signing, kind of complicated the roster, and he will be on the Dodgers for one more year, and will he be able to stay off the DL.

      This is one boring game today. Bum I think Joc bulked up to much, with his legs. It seems like a doesn’t have that first step, he had. I like his legs, the way they were last year. I know he is just trying to be better, but it makes him look slower. I know you already know, that when someone builds up to much muscle, it can slow them down, and takes away there flexibility. That is why the Dodgers told Puig to come to spring training, not so muscle bound this year. What do you think?

          1. I think you already know what many of us think. No need to say it and sound like an I told you so.

  8. Schebler and Peraza could bothy make that team. Of course, the Reds will probably lose 90-100 games this year.

  9. That may be why the Reds wanted them. They are both more ML ready than who came back here. Makes sense.

    Speaking of ready, Avilan is almost there. All he has to do is start getting guys out.

  10. I just hope we have all of our starting line up, healthy and ready to play by opening day. The Giants always seem to start out fast, at the begining of the year.

  11. I guess they are only going to fill in the fifth spot of the rotation, only one time. I guess they expect Bolsinger back after that. And that spot is in SF against the Giants.

  12. “Happiness hit her like a train on a track
    Coming towards her stuck still no turning back
    She hid around corners and she hid under beds
    She killed it with kisses and from it she fled
    With every bubble she sank with her drink
    And washed it away down the kitchen sink

    The dog days are over
    The dog days are done
    The horses are coming
    So you better run

    Run fast for your mother, run fast for your father
    Run for your children, for your sisters and brothers
    Leave all your love and your longing behind
    You can’t carry it with you if you want to survive

    The dog days are over
    The dog days are done
    Can you hear the horses?
    ‘Cause here they come”

    Huh?

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