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Isotopes Notebook: Lee shows his mettle in Albuquerque debut

Dodgers prospect Zach Lee was not fazed by pitching in Albuquerque.
Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

It is impossible to know just how a pitching prospect will react to his first appearance in a hitter's haven like Isotopes Park. In the case of Dodgers No. 4-ranked prospect Zach Lee, if the first appearance is any indication, he will do just fine in Albuquerque.

Lee allowed just one run in 5.2 innings, though he did not factor into the decision. The Isotopes rallied late to beat the Tacoma Rainiers 6-3.

The right-hander said he was pleased with his start, but more work needs to be done. He pointed out the ball he left up to Ji-Man Choi, who blasted it for an opposite-field solo home run.

“Other than that I feel like I threw well,” Lee said. “The one big thing about tonight that I was disappointed in was I didn’t finish hitters off very well. I had a lot of 1-2, 0-2 counts, but they crawled back into the count, 2-2, 3-2. I kind of got the pitch count up, which really limits how deep I can go in games when I do that.”

Lee did grasp the importance of pitching down in the zone. To survive in Albuquerque, a pitcher cannot leave balls up.

“It was one of those things if you live down in the zone, no ground balls will leave the park,” Lee said. “It’s one of those things if I pitch down in the zone I won’t get hurt. Playing here, playing in this league, if you leave balls up you’re going to get hurt every once in a while.”

The key to keeping the ball down is fastball command, Isotopes manager Damon Berryhill said. Lee has had good command of his fastball through two starts to date.

“He’s been able to command the fastball, which is a big key for him,” Berryhill said. “He’s getting ahead of hitters, able to throw his breaking ball and his changeup ahead in the count and work that stuff in. So far he’s probably been our best starter out there.”

Lee has shown plenty of composure on the mound for a 22 year old. That in turn has impressed his teammates, especially when he dealt with an unusual situation in the third inning Friday when half the light towers went out.

“He looked great, he pitched awesome, especially with kind of a funky night with the lights going out,” right fielder Nick Buss said. “He threw really well.”

Lee said it was just a matter of taking a simple mental approach. The delay lasted 25 minutes after he had recorded two quick outs to start the inning.

“I was trying to create kind of like a new inning even though I needed just one out,” Lee said. “It was a real quick inning, but I kept the same routine. I was glad it wasn’t a long inning after that. It would have sucked after getting two quick ones.”

Guerrero in, Harris out

The Isotopes received a noteworthy addition to the lineup Saturday when second baseman Alex Guerrero was added to the roster. Guerrero, a Cuban defector, was rated as the Dodgers' No. 7 prospect entering the season.

With Guerrero on board, a cut had to be made. Veteran infielder Brendan Harris was released even after he hit .333 (5-for-15) in six games.

Guerrero was not added to the Isotopes' starting lineup for Saturday. He had been in extended spring training after straining a muscle in his side while playing for the Dodgers in Australia.

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