Earlier this season, Chattanooga's Zach Lee was focusing on establishing his fastball. Having accomplished that, he's on to cementing his off-speed pitches.
The Dodgers' top pitching prospect gave up two hits and two walks while striking out six over seven innings Saturday night as the Lookouts blanked Huntsville, 4-0.
"It's a matter of keeping the ball down in the zone, starting to go to using all my pitches early in the game," Lee said. "I located the fastball early in the game. I throw quite a bit of strikes and hitters are really trying to attack fastballs, so I have to mix it up earlier than I want to."
Lee (6-5) threw 64 of 93 pitches for strikes and lowered his ERA to 2.95, which ranks 14th in the Southern League. He had a 4.50 ERA in June coming into the game after posting 2.42 and 2.87 marks in April and May but used his four-pitch repertoire to drop that figure to 3.48.
"I had a good two-seam fastball, threw some really good changeups and some curveballs and sliders here and there," Lee said.
After teammate Ross Stripling allowed two hits in shutting out Montgomery for eight innings on Friday night, Lee was looking to match that effort.
"It's definitely one of those things where whenever someone throws a competitive, good game, we want to throw well behind him. We've kind of got that competition between all five of us [in the rotation]," the 21-year-old right-hander said.
"You're just really trying to one-up the other guy."
The 2010 first-round pick has thrown six innings or more in five of his last six starts. He's tied for third in the league with 80 strikeouts over 88 1/3 innings in 16 starts and one relief appearance -- his first since high school -- that was used to limit his workload.
"[Relieving is] a totally different animal -- how you attack hitters, how you prepare to get in the game. It's a little bit of a new wrinkle, a notch in the belt," Lee said. "It could be something that if starting doesn't work out you can do to stay in baseball."
With the trade deadline looming on July 31, a year after his name was bandied about in several rumors, Lee's focusing only on what he can control.
"I try not to look into a whole lot of that stuff. There are going to be trade talks from now to July 31 involving anyone to everyone, so I'll just keep focusing on executing and making quality pitches," he said. "What happens, happens; I can only control what I can control."
Onelki Garcia, Los Angeles' sixth-ranked prospect, struck out three and pitched around a hit over the last two innings as Chattanooga posted its league-leading 10th shutout.
Dodgers No. 3 prospect Joc Pederson stole two bases to push his total to 25, second in the league behind Birmingham's Keenyn Walker. Osvaldo Martinez went 3-for-3 with a homer and two runs scored for the Lookouts.