Lee attacks early and often in Padres debut

Lee attacks early and often in Padres debut

PEORIA, Ariz. -- Zach Lee began his spring with three consecutive groundouts and a quick first inning during Sunday's 13-2 Cactus League loss to Seattle.

If the 25-year-old right-hander has his way, there's going to be more where that came from this year.

"Ideally, that's what I want to do," Lee said. "Attack guys early, make guys swing early in counts, keep pitch counts down and keep the ball on the ground. Obviously, when I have had my most success historically ... I'm down in the zone, a lot of ground balls."

Lee, a December waiver claim from Seattle, allowed one run over two innings -- a Nelson Cruz blast on a fastball up in the zone. The former first-round pick is looking to bounce back from a rough 2016 in which he posted a 6.14 ERA between the Dodgers and Mariners farm systems.

Ultimately, the Padres acquired Lee to infuse some much-needed pitching depth into their system. Barring something unforeseen this spring, Lee will likely open the year at Triple-A El Paso.

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"He's got to work his way up the depth chart right now," said Padres manager Andy Green. "I think that goes without saying, where he came from last year. He's going to have to stack quality outing on quality outing. But he's a competitor. We'll see where he ends up."

Maybe the change of scenery reinvigorates Lee, once a top prospect with the Dodgers.

"Great opportunity for me," Lee said of joining the Padres. "We've got a lot of young guys, which will create a great competition amongst us. And it's a real loose, fun group of guys. I really enjoying being over here."

Power threat?

The last time Travis Jankowski homered in his first game, he was playing high school baseball at Lancaster Catholic in Pennsylvania and using a metal bat.

Known for his speed and defense, Jankowski will never 'wow' anybody in the home run column. But he opened Spring Training in impressive fashion Saturday, launching a solo shot onto the right-field berm.

"I would love to add power to the game," Jankowski said. "I'm not going to try to force it, I'm not going to try to add to my swing or have a different approach at the plate. But I would like to be able to drive the ball a little bit better this year -- whether it's homers or doubles in the gap."

Jankowski, who went 0-for-2 Sunday, is competing for the starting center field job with Manuel Margot. They're among the game's best defensive outfielders and will rotate at all three spots this spring. For now, expect to see Jankowski get the most reps in left, which he says is his weakest position.

Bethancourt throws live batting practice

Christian Bethancourt took another step in his progression to the mound, facing hitters during a live batting practice session on the Padres' main practice field.

He faced five different batters, including Wil Myers and Erick Aybar, mixing in a handful of changeups and sliders. Bethancourt's fastball is still his premier weapon, but the other two are almost game-ready.

It's possible the converted catcher makes his pitching debut this week, perhaps as early as Wednesday.

AJ Cassavell covers the Padres for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @ajcassavell. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.