Leiter shows promise in shaky start: 'He's got the talent to be here'

May 9th, 2024

OAKLAND -- There’s a lot that goes into a Major League debut. It can be overwhelming, all the attention and the texts and calls from family and friends on top of having to play on the biggest stage. The bright lights in The Show are as big of a deal as they seem.

But for , things are feeling more normal already.

Texas’ No. 7-ranked prospect, per MLB Pipeline, Leiter made his second career big league start on Wednesday on the back half of a doubleheader against the A’s after the Rangers fell, 9-4, in Game 1. He wasn't perfect in the 12-11 win in Game 2, but it was a considerable step forward from his debut just two weeks ago.

“It all comes back to trust, same as every pitcher,” Leiter said before his start. “Just trusting that what I do is enough. It's not going to be every day, obviously, or for every start, but more times than not, it will be when you try to do more and try to do something that isn't a strength of yours or whatever that you set yourself up for failure sometimes. So like I said, just getting back to what I do well and trusting that.”

On Wednesday, Leiter allowed six runs (four earned) on seven hits. The Rangers' typically solid defense didn’t do him any favors, but a pair of two-run homers from Shea Langeliers and Tyler Soderstrom were his biggest mistakes. The first was a four-seamer left over the middle of the plate, and the second was a cutter that backed up over the plate.

“I mean, results-wise, it was obviously a similar feeling walking out [as the debut],” Leiter said postgame. “It was frustrating. We got a win, which made it a lot better. I just wish I could have done a little bit more to help the team out, help the bullpen out. But you take the positives, learn from it and keep moving forward.”

Leiter added that he felt like he did a better job of not trying to do too much in this start compared with the first one, but a byproduct of that was his pitches were a little bit too hittable.

“I could have been a little bit better,” he said. “But no, again, it’s really nice to get a win, and I'm excited for the next opportunity.”

Leiter said he came into the day with a lot of confidence that still didn’t waver after his second shaky start in the big leagues. He knows the things he needs to do in order to get better, and he’s continuing to learn from the experience each time he’s on an MLB mound.

He emphasized that getting to be a successful big league pitcher is a process and it doesn't happen overnight. It comes with time and trust in himself and his abilities.

“He's got the talent to be here,” said veteran reliever David Robertson, who tossed two perfect innings in the win. “He wouldn't be here pitching, starting a game for us if he didn’t. He did a really good job today. He competed in the zone. He didn't have any walks. He may have given up a couple of home runs, and I don't care.

“Listen, you're not walking guys and you're competing in the zone. He's gonna put together some good outings for us. How long is that gonna take? I don't know. But listen, he's got the stuff to pitch here. I'm proud of him. I think he's gonna do a good job.”

After struggles over his first two seasons of pro ball, mainly with Double-A Frisco, Leiter has finally looked like the pitcher whom the Rangers selected at No. 2 overall in the 2021 MLB Draft. He posted a 2.84 ERA over five games (four starts) for Triple-A Round Rock this season.

With the Rangers’ rotation currently decimated by injuries, as Dane Dunning joined fellow starters Nathan Eovaldi, Max Scherzer, Jacob deGrom, Cody Bradford and Tyler Mahle on the IL, Leiter continues to be a legitimate option at this point in the season.

The Rangers' only healthy starters are Jon Gray, Andrew Heaney and Michael Lorenzen, and reliever José Ureña, who started Tuesday’s win over the A’s, is also an option to move to the rotation. Leiter very well could remain with the club for the time being.

“Obviously, the two starts haven't gone my way, [that’s] frustrating,” Leiter said. “But those are two games where the Rangers are in the win column, and that's a positive from the negative outcomes and the frustrations. It’s the same deal. You move on to the next and you learn what you can and understand that it's not a direct and linear path to get to where you want to be. It's baseball. So hopefully I pitch long enough to experience this frustrating feeling a hundred more times.”