Wade who? LeBlanc conjures up Moyer comp

June 25th, 2016

SEATTLE -- Wade LeBlanc, with one game under his belt, has a long way to go to match Mariners Hall of Famer Jamie Moyer. But it says something that both his new manager Scott Servais and opposing skipper Mike Matheny mentioned LeBlanc reminded them of Moyer in dealing six innings of shutout ball in Friday's 4-3 walkoff win over the Cardinals at Safeco Field.

LeBlanc, acquired by trade from the Blue Jays two days earlier, was making his first Major League appearance since 2014. But he used a quality changeup and some outstanding control to hold the Cardinals to three hits with one walk and three strikeouts in an excellent spot start in place of Taijuan Walker.

"He's a pitcher," Servais said of the 31-year-old lefty. "I think Mariners fans would have to throw maybe a Jamie Moyer [comparison] out there tonight. Because that's certainly what it looked like. [Hitting coach Edgar Martinez] said to me, 'I think I've seen this before.' It really worked. He's a fly ball pitcher, but he goes back and forth with the changeup, pitches in enough and was very effective."

After watching LeBlanc shut his team down even while throwing an array of fastballs in the 80-88 mph range, Mike Matheny drew on the same image.

"Plus changeup," said the Cardinals manager. "He was sinking the ball. I watched Jamie Moyer do that here for a long time. I was one of the guys he made look really bad, and I don't think he even hit 88 [mph]. But great changeup, location, sink and then he'd be sneaky with the fastball as he was using the breaking stuff. He was keeping guys off balance."

LeBlanc laughed when told of the Moyer comparisons.

"I hope there's something to it," he said with a smile. "Give me half his career and I'll be a happy man. … Throwing strikes, changing speeds. That's pretty much all I've got."

The Mariners were thrilled to get a strong start out of LeBlanc on the day he was added to the roster, along with relievers Donn Roach and David Rollins as general manager Jerry Dipoto moved to bolster a depleted pitching staff.

The Mariners placed starter Adrian Sampson on the 15-day disabled list, optioned reliever Tom Wilhelmsen to Tacoma and transferred reliever Tony Zych to the 60-day DL to open a spot on the 40-man roster for LeBlanc. Sampson said after the game that doctors informed him he'll need surgery to reattach a torn flexor bundle in his elbow.

LeBlanc was 7-2 with a 1.71 ERA in 14 starts for Triple-A Buffalo this season and pitched in Japan last year, which is where he honed his craft even more.

"You learn how to change speeds, how to throw things in off counts, how to have confidence in every pitch you have regardless of the count or situations," he said.

With starters Felix Hernandez and Wade Miley on the 15-day disabled list and Walker's next start delayed by his foot issue, LeBlanc provides a temporary hand at least. It remains to be seen how long he remains in Seattle, but his first impression certainly won't hurt his chances.

"I can't say enough about the job he did and it's really a credit to Jerry and our front office for going out and identifying him and putting him in that spot, knowing he'd handle it well," Servais said. "He threw a great ballgame against a very hot team."

LeBlanc, a veteran of seven Major League seasons with six different teams, has a career record of 21-33 with a 4.47 ERA in 107 games. This win came 639 days after his last start on Sept. 23, 2014 for the Angels and he said being back in the Majors was welcome indeed.

"This is where everybody wants to be," he said. "Anytime I get a chance to do it it's 100 percent a blessing."