Sports Dodgers

Dodgers' Zach Lee has his sights set high

PHOENIX — Over the winter Zach Lee said he was coming to spring training to win a spot in the Dodgers rotation. And though that's clearly not going to happen this season, the 22-year-old right-hander isn't about to change his goals.

"Any time you're going to set a goal, you kind of want to set it high," said Lee, who made his first appearance of the spring Friday, shutting out the Texas Rangers for two innings. "If you set it too low then you'll probably meet it and you'll kind of get content with it."

Lee, who signed a record $5.25-million bonus after being selected in the first round of the 2010 draft, was the Dodgers' minor league pitcher of the year last summer when he won 10 games and posted a 3.22 earned-run average at double-A Chattanooga. And though his work on the field has been limited by a strained muscle in his side, Lee has tried to use his first big league spring training as a chance to learn, so he's talked pitching with Josh Beckett and Zack Greinke.

But, he said, he also wanted to make sure he got noticed.

"I just kind of wanted to prove to people and prove to some of the coaches and upper management, if they wanted to give me a chance, I'd be ready and willing to do it," he said. "Obviously now it's more kind of about making impressions and kind of trying to be the guy who can be the next one up."

Consider that message received.

"He just looks like he belongs," said Manager Don Mattingly. "Around the clubhouse and around the field he kind of does everything well.

"With Zach, you see more of the old-style kid coming up. Quiet in the clubhouse, goes about his business, just working on his game all the time. We like everything about him."

Dr. Jobe's unsung save

Dr. Frank Jobe, who died Thursday at 88, is best remembered as the father of Tommy John surgery, which has prolonged and improved the careers of thousands of pitchers.

But Jobe's medical magic extended well beyond the All-Stars and Hall of Famers he is most closely identified with.

Several years ago Scott Akasaki, the Dodgers' director of team travel, was bothered by a mysterious ache that spread from his fingers to his neck. He coped with the pain by gulping Advil until Jobe quietly arranged for him to have an MRI exam.

"On July 4, a holiday," Akasaki remembered Friday.

Turns out Akasaki's problems were more serious than even Jobe had thought. The exam found that Akasaki had a tumor and two cysts inside his spinal cord, so Jobe arranged for him to see a specialist at UCLA later that day, and two weeks later Akasaki underwent a lengthy surgery. He was back at work before the end of the season.

Akasaki isn't sure the surgery saved his life or even prevented paralysis — though he thinks it might have done both. What he's certain of, though, is that Jobe deserves credit for keeping Akasaki healthy enough to eventually meet his wife, Tiffany, with whom he has had two children.

And he told the doctor so in an email shortly after Jobe's own health problems became public.

"I sent him a picture of my family," an emotional Akasaki said as he fought to keep his composure. "I wanted him to understand that because of him, he allowed me to meet my wife and have kids.

"So I just told him how I felt. I appreciated what he did for me. I really feel like he saved my life in so many other ways."

kevin.baxter@latimes.com

Twitter: @kbaxter11

 

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