ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Albuquerque Isotopes pitcher Zach Lee has reinvented himself on the mound in the 11th year of his career. The former Dodgers first-round draft pick has made the switch from starter to reliever, while also finishing his degree.


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Lee was a multi-sport athlete in high school and committed to Louisiana State University as both a baseball player and a quarterback in football. Following his senior year in high school, Lee was drafted by the Los Angeles Dodgers with the 28th overall pick in the 2010 MLB draft, and he ultimately made the decision to forego college and turn pro.

12 years later, Lee’s career has turned out to be that of a journeyman. He has spent time with nine different organizations and only pitched a combined 12.2 major league innings. While he didn’t quite pan out as an MLB starter, Lee has now found his groove as a reliever for the Isotopes.

In 23 appearances this season, he has recorded an ERA of 2.82, however, he has only allowed one run over his last 13 appearances. He credits his success to coming out of the bullpen rather than starting the game on the mound.

“Just being a little bit more aggressive, attacking hitters a little more, trying to be a little bit more efficient with some pitches and also pitch in some situations,” Lee said. “You do that as a starter as well. Obviously, as a reliever, it’s a little bit more stressed upon just because of the situation of the game later in the game.”

Making the switch to reliever only happened during spring training, but coaches think that his dominance on the mound deserves some recognition.

“He’s earned the spot to be really our setup type guy, pressure situations, and win,” said pitching coach Frank Gonzales. “He’s handled it great.”

While Lee has changed in his role, he has also been working to finish his college degree. When he decided to go straight from high school to professional baseball, his education took a back seat. Now, he has decided to get his degree.

Lee began taking classes at a community college a few years ago in his home state of Texas. Once he earned his associate’s degree, he transferred to LSU to get a degree in Sports Administration. He expects to graduate within the next year or two.

“Actually it’s been kind of beneficial for me to kind of get my mind off baseball,” he said. “There’s been times where I overly focused or put too much energy towards baseball, been able to kind of dwell in some bad depths and lows. Having a different thing to kind of go out and take some time, knowing I have to take a quiz or test some at point and time and being able to kind of check out of baseball has been very beneficial for me.”

While Lee’s career has had its ups and downs, it seems like he has set himself up for success, regardless of what happens next.