NEW YORK — Five years after forfeiting his college football scholarship to become the highest-paid draft pick in Dodgers history, Zach Lee stepped on a major league mound for the first time.
The dream soon revealed itself as a nightmare.
The right-hander pitched only 42/3 innings into the Dodgers' 15-2 loss to the New York Mets on Saturday night at Citi Field. He gave up seven runs and 11 hits.
Departing with his head down and the Dodgers trailing by five runs wasn't what he had in mind for his major league debut.
"Bittersweet probably is the best word to describe it," Lee said. "It's great to get up here, it's great to actually be throwing in a game and get that first outing out of the way. Unfortunately, it wasn't a very good outing to hang your hat on."
By the time the game was over, the Mets had scored more runs than they had in a game against the Dodgers. The Mets' 21 hits were the most for the team in five seasons.
"If they keep me here, hopefully, I'll show them what I can actually do," Lee said.
The Mets' attack on Lee started immediately.
Curtis Granderson drew a leadoff walk, which was followed by hits from Ruben Tejada, David Murphy and Kelly Johnson.
Lucas Duda recorded the first out of the inning on a line drive to shortstop Jimmy Rollins, but rookie Michael Conforto and Kirk Nieuwenhuis each had a single.
The Mets were ahead, 4-0.
Lee looked back on Conforto's hit with regret, as it was on a grounder to Lee's right. Lee tried to field the ball, which prevented it from reaching Rollins.
"That's maybe me trying to be too much of an athlete some times," Lee said.
Lee wondered whether Rollins could have turned an inning-ending double play.
"I let that ball go, we're out of that inning, probably, with one run," Lee said.
Lee thought he improved as the game progressed.
But the Mets scored a run in the third inning and knocked him out of the game in the fifth.
In the fifth inning, Lee served up a home run to Johnson that increased the Dodgers' deficit to 6-1. Conforto's two-out double ended Lee's outing.
Lee was replaced by Chin-hui Tsao, who promptly gave up a run-scoring double to Nieuwenhuis.
Tsao gave up six runs in two-thirds of an inning and was optioned to triple-A Oklahoma City after the game.
Josh Ravin, who gave up two runs in 11/3 innings, was also sent to Oklahoma City.
One of the two vacant roster positions will be claimed by Zack Greinke, who will return from paternity list to start Sunday in the series finale.
The other will presumably be taken by a minor league reliever who will reinforce a bullpen that has been heavily used on the 10-game trip.
Lee's road to the major leagues started on a football field at Louisiana State, where he was a highly rated freshman quarterback.
The Dodgers, who selected him with the 28th overall pick in the 2010 draft, offered him a franchise-record $5.25 million to trade in his football helmet for a baseball glove.
Lee's ascent in the Dodgers farm system was gradual.
Lee was the organization's minor league pitcher of the year in 2013, when he had a 3.22 earned-run average in double A.
The next year, his first in triple A, was considered a significant step back. His ERA inflated to 5.39.
Lee's statistics indicated he figured something out this season.
In 12 starts for Oklahoma City, he was 7-3 with a 2.36 ERA.
If not for a problem with blood circulation that resulted in numbness in his fingers, Lee could have been promoted to the majors earlier, Manager Don Mattingly said.
Sidelined for all of June, Lee nonetheless earned his first promotion to the major leagues last week.
The move came under unusual circumstances. In addition to playing their already-scheduled game July 18, the Dodgers and the Washington Nationals had to complete a suspended contest from the previous night.
The teams were permitted by the National League to expand their rosters to 26 players for one of the games and the Dodgers selected Lee to be their extra player.
With Clayton Kershaw starting the game, Lee knew he had almost no chance of pitching that day. He was right. Lee was sent back to triple A after that game.