Leiter's 'surreal' MLB debut a 'special day from start to finish'

April 18th, 2024

DETROIT -- made his much-anticipated Major League debut, but it wasn’t with the results he’d envisioned.

The Rangers' No. 7 prospect per MLB Pipeline left Thursday afternoon’s 9-7 win against the Tigers at Comerica Park with two outs in the fourth inning and the score tied at 7.

“Obviously, it’s a surreal experience,” Leiter said after meeting with nearly 40 friends and family members on the field postgame. “It’s something you dream about since you’re a little kid, and being around the game always. It’s a special day from start to finish.”

After he struck out Detroit leadoff hitter Riley Greene with the first three MLB pitches he threw, two big innings cost Leiter, who allowed four runs in the second and three in the fourth. He responded with a 1-2-3 inning between those, but a two-out double in the fourth by Riley Greene was followed by a walk to Mark Canha to get a rally going.

Kerry Carpenter drove in both with a triple that center fielder Leody Taveras drifted on and could not reach. Then Spencer Torkelson doubled in the tying run and Texas manager Bruce Bochy came to the mound to get Leiter.

“I was hoping he could’ve gotten through that fourth,” Bochy said. “He probably would’ve felt a little bit better. But he had to be amped up. I think he showed early, but he settles down and pitches. Unfortunately, that two-out rally in the fourth is what got him.

“That second inning, he had a little trouble hitting his spots there. But third inning, loved the way he bounced back. Had a good, clean inning. And fourth inning, he got in trouble. Then the deep fly ball [for a triple], one we couldn’t handle and probably should’ve got him out then. But, overall, I thought Jack was fine.”

What was going through Leiter’s mind as he walked back to the dugout after being relieved?

“A lot of frustration,” he said. “I know I’m better, and I need to be better, and I will be better. And that’s kind of the frustration. Some pitches that I left on the table, and some mistakes that I made … the bullpen’s wearing it, and I didn’t help the cause.”

It was a history-making debut where families are concerned. His appearance, coupled with cousin Mark Leiter Jr.'s MLB career, made their fathers the first brother combo in AL/NL history with sons joining them as Major League pitchers.

Jack’s father, Al Leiter, who was in attendance at Comerica Park, won 162 games across 19 seasons. Mark Leiter Sr. won 65 games over 11 seasons.

“It’s awesome,” Jack Leiter said. “It’s really cool to have a family of pitchers, and there’s another cousin coming up with Florida State [Cam Leiter]. So, there’s a lot of pitching in our family, and a lot of pitching conversations. So, that’s a really cool stat, obviously.”

Al Leiter was 1-2 with a 4.35 ERA against Detroit, and his son had a great chance to match Dad’s victory total against the Tigers before the game got away from him. The son did not figure in the decision.

Detroit got to Leiter in the second inning, jumping on him for four runs on four hits. It all started with a leadoff walk to Colt Keith. Then Gio Urshela singled and Javier Báez doubled in a run.

Rangers pitching coach Mike Maddux made a trip to the mound at that point, and Leiter then got Carson Kelly to ground out, which scored a run. However, Greene hit a screamer of a triple to right-center to score Báez and Canha’s RBI single tied the game at 4 before Leiter struck out Carpenter and got Torkelson to ground out to end the inning.

Leiter said he was too “defensive with my pitch selection today” and “at times thought I had to be better than I needed to be” in facing Major League hitters. He said that got him “away from my strengths.”

Leiter threw 85 pitches, and struck out three while walking three and allowing eight hits. He used 43 four-seam fastballs that averaged 95.8 mph, but the Tigers appeared to sit on that pitch. He tried to keep them off-balance with 23 sliders and mixed in 11 curves, six changeups and two sinkers.

Seeing all those friends and family after the game put the meaning of the day into perspective.

“It was really special,” Leiter said. “They let them all out on the field. So, it was cool. They were just proud. A proud day. Exciting. Obviously, results-wise from my standpoint, not ideal. It was not what you dream about in a debut, but we won the game, and that’s the most important thing.”