With rotation vacancy, Dodgers keep Lee in mind

Prospect 'in the mix' for spot, manager Roberts says after strong effort

With rotation vacancy, Dodgers keep Lee in mind

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Just the fact that questions about Zach Lee now center on baseball and not football is proof of the progress he's making.

After Lee threw two scoreless innings as a starter in the Dodgers' 5-2 win over the Giants on Sunday, manager Dave Roberts said the right-hander is "in the mix" for the spot in the starting rotation that's suddenly available in the wake of lefty Brett Anderson's back surgery.

Spring Training: Tickets | Schedule | Information

Roberts said that righty Ross Stripling, who also threw two scoreless innings on Sunday, is also competing, although the club has given indications that Brandon Beachy and Mike Bolsinger are the leading candidates to replace Anderson, who is expected to be out from three to five months.

"They're in the mix -- we've got to consider everything," said Roberts.

Lee, 24, inherited Anderson's start on Sunday in part out of convenience, as it was his day to pitch anyway. He has become the forgotten man in a rebuilt and acclaimed farm system, slipping to No. 24 overall in MLB.com's list of Dodgers prospects, behind 11 other pitchers.

Lee was 18 when the Dodgers signed him to a stunning $5.25 million bonus. He had just reported to summer football practice at Louisiana State University, having thrown 61 touchdown passes in two high school seasons to become one of the most heavily recruited quarterbacks in the country.

Lee took the money and left LSU for Rookie ball. Last year was his fifth season as a professional pitcher and second at Triple-A, where he overcame a month off for a circulation issue in his fingers to go 11-6 with a 2.70 ERA in 19 starts. He made one emergency start against the Mets at Citi Field when Zack Greinke left for the birth of his son, allowing seven runs on 11 hits in 4 2/3 innings.

"I felt last year I did a really good job establishing myself as a valuable option," Lee said. "Hopefully I can contribute sooner rather than later. As long as I get a fair opportunity, I don't know that I'd be frustrated. If I didn't, I'd be frustrated. At the same time, it's not my decision to make. The people at the top are doing what's best for the organization."

Lee doesn't light up the radar gun or possess a nasty trick pitch. The only eye-popping part of his game has been his signing bonus, but he's made steady improvement and continues to learn the art of pitching.

"I don't think he has that one wipeout pitch that might wow you," said Roberts. "But when he changes speeds, has good command, pounds the zone and works the fastball, change and sinker, there are things he can do. When Zach's right, he gets Major League hitters out."

The 2010 Draft class has already produced Bryce Harper, Manny Machado, Matt Harvey, Christian Yelich and Noah Syndergaard. And Lee.

Did he expect more sooner?

"A little bit," Lee said. "Sometimes you'd like it to be a little faster, but you can't speed things up. Take them as they come. I feel like I'm in a good spot this year to make an impact."

Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.