Following the worst season of his career, Zach Lee looks to have turned the page and has resumed his ascent to the Major Leagues.
The Dodgers' No. 13 prospect gave up four hits over seven innings on Sunday afternoon, pitching Triple-A Oklahoma City to a 2-0 blanking of Las Vegas.
Lee (5-3) fanned three, issued one walk and threw 59 of 88 pitches for strikes. He retired his first eight batters before yielding a two-out single in the third to 51s starter Darin Gorski and ended up facing four batters over the minimum.
"I was really able to locate my curveball today, especially early in counts," Lee said. "I was able to throw my cutter and sliders in some situations that were fastball counts and it got me some weak contact early on. Today was just about being aggressive. Really, just be aggressive and make quality pitches in the zone."
The 23-year-old right-hander has enjoyed a strong start to his second Triple-A season. He ranks fourth in the Pacific Coast League with 42 strikeouts over 53 2/3 innings and fifth with a 2.52 ERA.
"There's a couple of things," Lee said. "I did some mechanical adjustments with [University of Texas pitching coach] Skip Johnson in the offseason that helped me get on top of the ball to keep it down in the zone. Also, just make quality pitches in the lower half of the zone.
"Being able to mix things up and not leave things up, it's done wonders for me. Being able to keep the ball on the ground and not get as many fly-ball outs as I have in the past has really allowed me to limit the damage, especially once guys get on."
The Texas native learned those lessons after a frustrating Triple-A debut campaign. It was the first season in which the 2010 first-round pick really struggled, compiling a 5.38 ERA while going 7-13 -- the first losing mark of his career.
"Last year, I was inconsistent," Lee said. "I had some games where I threw the ball down, I had some I was up in the strike zone. Those games are the ones where you get hard. It was initially tough, it was a little more frustrating than anything. Going out there, you want to have success every time out.
"Looking back on it, there's always an adjustment period, there's always a situation where you can learn to improve on it or dwell on it. It's kind of one of those things, where it's a good learning process for me. The next difficult stretch that comes up, I can have something to fall back on."
While Lee is pleased to be on the verge of eclipsing last season's win total, the only thing that matters to him is being able to give his team quality innings.
"Obviously, my job is to try and go deep as possible and give my team a chance to win," he said. "Sometimes the record doesn't really show how well you pitched. It's always a plus to go deep into games and come out with a victory."
Ramon Troncoso followed Lee and gave up one hit in the eighth before David Aardsma worked the ninth for his league-leading 14th save.
Dodgers No. 8 prospect Scott Schebler and Brian Burgamy delivered RBI singles to account for Oklahoma City's offense.
Gorski (3-4) took the loss after allowing two runs on seven hits and three walks with two strikeouts over five innings.