'This was really cool': Leiter delivers in spring action

March 12th, 2022

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- While big leaguers were steady to arrive in Arizona following the end of the MLB lockout, Rangers Minor Leaguers competed in a scrimmage against the Royals on Friday afternoon.

Jack Leiter, ranked as the Rangers' top prospect by MLB Pipeline, pitched 1 1/3 scoreless innings in Texas’ 5-2 win at Surprise Stadium. It was the first time the right-hander faced a batter in a semi-real game action since July 28, 2021, when he struck out eight batters in Game 1 of the College World Series for Vanderbilt.

“It was awesome to get out here and face another team,” Leiter said. “I think kind of everyone was, with it being the first game of Spring Training, a little jumpy, but super excited. And I think at times that played against me today. It happens. I try not to put too much weight in it, but as a competitive guy, you obviously look back at your outing and see the numerous places you could be better, and kind of just move on from it.”

Leiter finished having allowed just one hit to go with two strikeouts and two walks. Leiter said he threw around 30 pitches and the one hit he yielded was to Royals top prospect Bobby Witt Jr., the son of former Rangers' first-rounder Bobby Witt, in the first inning. Witt drove a first-pitch breaking ball into shallow left field for a one-out single.

“Whenever you face a friend or a guy you played with, it’s pretty cool, but you kind of have to pretend like you don't know him a little bit,” Leiter said. “It was just one pitch today, but he's a really good hitter, obviously. It's always cool to face him and get to see him.”

Leiter’s second inning was rolled after he hit a batter. He admitted to feeling a little anxious on the mound and that’s why his command wasn’t as controlled as normal.

Leiter was working specifically on mixing in and landing his offspeeds, while trying not to be so fastball dominant, but that caused him to miss on a few sliders while trying to correct it. While it wasn’t working perfectly, he’s still confident he’ll get a feel for everything soon.

After six weeks in Arizona, Leiter said he’s feeling good, but he is still anxious to finally get the season up and running.

“I’m really just trying to pump the brakes a little bit, because I do feel good but like today rolling innings and stuff doesn't fully feel like full competing mode,” Leiter said. “I’m slowly getting there. This was really cool to be able to get out here in the stadium and compete against another lineup, and then kind of just move on and keep building up.”