Jack Leiter, ranked as the club's top prospect by both MLB.com and Baseball America, pitched 1 1/3 scoreless innings in the Rangers' 5-2 win over the Kansas City Royals, the first game of the minor league spring training schedule. The Vanderbilt product threw around 30 pitches and only allowed one hit and struck out two batters. Leiter also walked one and hit another and had his second inning rolled.
Overall, it was a solid debut for the second overall pick of the 2021 draft—especially for it being his first game since Game One of the College World Series in June.
“It was awesome to get out here again and face another team,” Leiter told reporters after the game. “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 have done better, and kind of just move on from it.”
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Leiter said he didn't quite have the feel he wanted during the game as he wants to land more offspeed pitches. While it's his No. 1 pitch, Leiter is trying to not be so "fastball dominant" and wants to balance his pitch usage.
"I missed a couple sliders and I was trying to correct that while I was out there," Leiter said of Friday's outing. "It wasn't exactly happening. It is what it is."
Leiter has spent the past six weeks in Arizona and has a few more left until the minor league season begins. But Friday was just a small first step in getting ready for his first professional season.
“I’m really just trying to pump the brakes a little bit because I do feel good," Leiter said. "But like today, rolling innings and stuff, it doesn't feel like full compete mode. I’m slowly getting there. This was really cool to be able to get out here in the stadium and compete against another lineup.”
Regarding where Leiter could begin his season, a final decision has yet to be made. The last possible indication came from a Feb. 23 call with the media where Rangers general manager Chris Young said Double-A Frisco was not out of the question. However, that is not yet a guarantee.
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