My first day at the minor league fields in Glendale proved to be fruitful. The back fields were still soggy from the previous day's rain, so the Dodgers' A ball teams played in the front of the complex, achingly close to the major league clubhouse.
As I walked down the path toward the minor league complex, I saw one team beginning to stretch. Without my trusty roster sheet handy, I stared vacantly at the nameless jerseys, trying to recognize a familiar face. Lucky for me, one such face appeared. And it was the one I was most hoping to see.
Wearing number 17, a youthful but unshaven pitcher emerged with a glove. His hat was placed high above his brow, a distinctive look that belonged to one specific Dodgers' prospect: Zach Lee.
He began stretching, seated on the grass, touching his toes. He stood up, rotated his body front and back, side to side, waving his arms and rolling his neck. Then he said something unexpected.
"12:28," the 20 year old stated to one of the coaches. The coach, roving minor league pitching instructor and former Dodger Matt Herges, looked at his watch, then back at Lee. "12:31," Herges responded.
Apparently, Zach likes guessing the time before his starts. Maybe it keeps him focused on his routine, maybe he's just pretending to be psychic, but he was never too far off.
Now it's time to long toss. Positioning myself behind the catcher to whom he was throwing, which just so happened to be Chris O'Brien, I realized the potential peril of my decision and moved to the side. But the catcher didn't miss a single throw.
Then Zach headed for the bullpen, in front of a throng of coaches and along side another prospect, to get warm. He guessed the time again, off by a few minutes. Undeterred, he began throwing.
Near the end of the session, he started calling his pitches: "Fastball. Curve. Changeup. Slider." If he wasn't happy with one, he'd throw it again. They all looked good to me.
Finally, the team hit the field, with Lee bounding over the foul line and onto the mound. He took his warmup tosses and was ready to go.
The results didn't really matter to me, as it was just a spring training start. Nevertheless, I peaked at a radar gun. 90, 91. Not bad, but not as hard as he's capable of throwing. And the results were there.
The most impressive part of the outing was his demeanor on the mound. After having a few pitches called balls, even though they were clearly strikes, Zach remained stoic, unfazed and simply went after the next hitter.
That's what makes him such a good prospect. Sure, he's got the stuff, the body, the mechanics. But his best grade is the 80 head he's got on his shoulders.
So what did I think of Lee's debut? What can I tell you about his pitches? What should we expect out of him in 2012? Maybe we should just listen to him instead.