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Rangers' Jack Leiter makes MLB debut: Former No. 2 draft pick strikes out first batter he faces in majors

Thursday afternoon at Comerica Park, Texas Rangers pitching prospect Jack Leiter made his MLB debut against the Detroit Tigers (GameTracker). Leiter was the No. 2 pick in the 2021 draft and his father, Al Leiter, won 162 games during a 19-year big league career from 1987-2005.

“It was a long conversation and I was kind of blacked out,” Leiter said about telling his father after being called up (via MLB.com). “He said how proud he was. Just reflecting on being a little kid in the backyard and all those special, special memories looking back of working hard from a young age. That was a special conversation, for sure.”

Leiter’s debut started well enough. He struck out Riley Greene, the first batter he faced, on three pitches. Leiter also punched out Kerry Carpenter on a nasty changeup, and pitched around a single and a walk in a scoreless first inning. Here is his first career strikeout with mom and dad in attendance:

The second inning did not go so well. The Rangers staked Leiter to a 4-0 lead against Kenta Maeda and Leiter gave it all back. The first three batters of the second inning reached base, and by the time it was over, Detroit had tied the game thanks in part to a Javier Báez double, a Greene triple, and a Mark Canha single. The Tigers pushed Leiter’s pitch count up to 52 after two innings.

Detroit added another three runs in the fourth inning when Leodys Taveras was unable to reel in Carpenter’s high fly ball to center field, resulting in a two-run triple. It was loud contact. It was also a play you’d like your center fielder to make. Spencer Torkelson followed with an RBI double to knot the game up 7-7, and end Leiter’s afternoon.

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Leiter’s debut was historic. This is the first time in baseball history two brothers who played in the big leagues also have sons who played in the big leagues. Al’s brother, Mark, pitched 11 seasons from 1990-2001, and his son, Mark Leiter Jr., is currently with the Chicago Cubs. Jack, Mark Sr., and Mark Jr. are all right-handed pitchers. Al was a lefty.

Growing up in New Jersey, Leiter was high school teammates with New York Yankees shortstop Anthony Volpe, and the Yankees drafted both players in 2019. Volpe was a first round pick and Leiter was a 20th rounder because he made it clear he was going to Vanderbilt. He did not sign with the Yankees, and, two years later, he was the No. 2 pick.

“We have an off-day, so (I’m going to watch) every pitch,” Volpe said about Leiter’s call up (via the New York Post). “… I couldn’t be happier for him and his whole family, for everyone. I’m super excited. I’m sure his phone was going crazy and all of our friends and family friends are super pumped.”

Despite being the No. 2 pick in the 2021 draft, Leiter’s had some ups and downs in his career, and he did not rank among our top 50 prospects entering the season. Baseball America did not rank Leiter among their top 100 prospects, saying “he might have a chance to fit in the back of a rotation” with some adjustments.

Leiter, 23, was called up because Cody Bradford (back strain) joined Jacob deGrom (Tommy John surgery), Tyler Mahle (Tommy John surgery), and Max Scherzer (back surgery) on the injured list earlier this week. Leiter struck out 25 batters and had a 3.77 ERA in 14 1/3 Triple-A before being promoted.

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