Tap Brakes On Jack Leiter Doom And Gloom; Texas Rangers Prospect's Career In Its Infancy

Texas Rangers manager Bruce Bochy believes Jack Leiter's struggles are a 'teaching moment' and the prospect is 'getting closer.'
Jack Leiter reacts to his third MLB start in which he allowed six runs in the second inning in the Texas Rangers' 7-4 loss to the Cleveland Guardians Tuesday night at Globe Life Field.
Jack Leiter reacts to his third MLB start in which he allowed six runs in the second inning in the Texas Rangers' 7-4 loss to the Cleveland Guardians Tuesday night at Globe Life Field. / Stefan Stevenson/Sports Illustrated, Inside the Rangers

ARLINGTON — Jack Leiter is the least of the Texas Rangers' problems at the moment.

The pitching prospect struggled in his third MLB start Tuesday night, allowing six runs in the second inning of a 7-4 loss to the Cleveland Guardians at Globe Life Field.

While his performance was disappointing, especially for the club with high hopes for the former No. 2 overall draft pick, his struggles aren't as alarming as some knee-jerk fans reacting hysterically on social media would have you believe.

Leiter twice was ahead 0-2 on the leadoff batter before. perhaps. the excitement of his first start in Arlington led to aggressive mistakes inside, resulting in two hit batters. He was ahead of Josh Naylor 0-2 before Naylor's three-run homer knocked him from the game with two outs in the second inning.

"I got a little too aggressive on the two hit batters. It's obviously frustrating to hit guys with two strikes," said Leiter, who took his first career loss. "You get ahead two strikes, do your job, and then, in a count where you're trying to put them away, get too aggressive on a fastball up and in and hit them both. So it was kind of like a Groundhog Day kind of deal on those two innings because the same exact thing happened, and it's kind of inexcusable that that happened.

"It sucks, but there's a lot of things that I could have done better, and I will," he said. "It's a matter of getting back to work."

He also had to battle a pesky Guardians lineup that fouled off 19 pitches in less than two innings. The second batter of the game, Andrés Giménez, fouled off seven pitches before grounding into a force out after an 11-pitch at-bat.

Leiter was 0-2 on David Fry, before Fry grounded out to third on the 34th pitch of the first inning.

Rangers manager Bruce Bochy has played it cool with regard to Leiter's performances. Bochy believes Leiter, 24, has the talent and stuff to succeed at the big league level this season.

"I think more than anything, just getting the ball where he wants. We saw him hit some batters on the 0-2 pitch. That's the one I'm sure he liked to have back," Bochy said. "They fought off a lot of tough pitches. We saw a lot of foul balls tonight. I was pulling for him so hard there. The 0-2 pitches did the damage."

For Leiter, trying to explain what went wrong afterward, it came down to a failure to locate his pitches at crucial moments. "I physically felt good; it just comes down to execution, and I didn't execute like I know I can, and it's frustrating. I let the team down, obviously."

The crux of the issue — even more than simply not commanding his pitches — is perhaps letting one missed pitch bleed into his next pitch. Young MLB pitchers often must learn how to do this with some growing pains.

"Things just spiraled quickly there, and obviously, it sucks," Leiter said. "but you've got to live with it, get up tomorrow, and get back to work and right this thing."

Leiter declined to use the nature of his three MLB starts, including three trips up from Triple-A Round Rock (and trips right back) as an excuse.

"It comes with the territory of being in this position," he said. "It's more just frustrating that I haven't been able to help the team as much as I know I'm capable of. I just have to recenter my focus to keeping the main thing the main thing, and that's continue to do what I need to do to get better, and that's what I'm gonna do."

Leiter is resolved to figure it out at the Major League level. When his next opportunity will be is unknown. His manager believes he will.

"We still haven't seen quite the consistency you need to have up here. And he's doing that down in Triple-A, and there's no reason why he can't do it here," Bochy said. "So that's what's missing with him. There's no question his stuff plays here. You'd like to see him get a little bit more consistent with [his secondary pitches]. But he's getting close. And you know, this is a teaching moment. I know he can't be happy with how it went. I'm sure he wanted to go out there and give us 5-6-7 innings. But I think he's getting close. And you know, the more he pitches up here, the better he will be, but we've got to get him on a consistent basis somewhere."

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Stefan Stevenson


Stefan Stevenson worked as a journalist and editor at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram for 25 years, covering sports, concerts, and general news. His beats have included the Dallas Cowboys, the Texas Rangers, and Texas Christian University football.