Lee returns to mound with a vengeance

Lee returns to mound with a vengeance

DENVER -- For nearly two years, Zach Lee's one career start in the big leagues has been both his default career highlight and a monkey on his back. But after pitching 5 1/3 innings in a spot start as part of a 6-0 shutout of the Rockies at Coors Field Wednesday, Lee effectively resurrected his career and erased the defining line that threatened to follow him.

"It's a little bit of a relief," Lee said of his triumphant return to the Majors. "It's really nice to be able to come up here and have another opportunity to have another start and be able to show that that was somewhat of a fluke and that things can turn your way."

In his only previous appearance, Lee gave up seven runs in 4 2/3 innings as a Dodger, facing the Mets on July 25, 2015. The start came in the midst of his second season winning the Branch Rickey Minor League Pitcher of the Year for the Dodgers. The former first-round Draft pick remembers his previous start like it was four days ago, not 21 months.

"Obviously, that first game didn't go the way I'd planned," Lee said. "Even when I look back on it sometimes, there were a couple key situations where if I let the ball go there in the first inning, we get a double play and I'm out of the first inning with two runs rather than four. A lot of those 'what ifs.'"

Lee left no room for "what ifs" at Coors Field Wednesday, blanking the Rockies on two hits.

Lee's first K with Padres

"Zach was outstanding. He never gave in at any point in time, and he always made them hit his pitch," manager Andy Green said. "It bodes well for his future. He made an impression today."

The never-say-die approach against the Rockies epitomized Lee's approach as he persistently worked his way back.

"It's about ups and downs," Lee said. "No matter how low you get, you try to fight and stay back up, and that's been my mentality since I was young. I've always been a fighter and competitive. Especially from last year, where I was mechanically and mentally, it just wasn't a great feeling, kind of got snowballed. It was really good to get out here, get this first one out of the way, and be able to build on it."

His approach to Coors Field came after years of pitching in the Pacific Coast League, where he often pitched at altitude in places like Albuquerque and Colorado Springs.

"A lot of guys come into this ballpark a little bit scared, and he had no fear," catcher Austin Hedges said. "We were out in the outfield and he said, 'let's attack these guys from the get-go, get a lot ground balls early,' and that's exactly what he did."

Lee was scheduled to make his first start with Triple-A El Paso Monday, but was scratched when he was recalled to the Padres with Trevor Cahill going on the disabled list. He went to the 'pen to be the long man, but when Luis Perdomo hit the DL a day later, Lee's name was called.

"It's definitely been a crazy week," Lee said. "I can't say I would have wrote it up this way, but I'm happy to be here. I'm ecstatic about the outing I had today, and hopefully I can continue to build on it."

Owen Perkins is a contributor to MLB.com and covered the Padres on Wednesday. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.