A Bright “Leiter” for the BlueClaws
Wins have been hard to come by for the Class A Lakewood BlueClaws this season, but every fifth day, when their ace is on the mound, the team appears to have excellent chances at notching a victory.
For the BlueClaws team that sits in last place in the South Atlantic League's Northern division with a 6-16 record, Mark Leiter Jr. has been the most solid contributor on the pitching staff. The 23-year-old sports a 3-1 record along with a 1.97 ERA and a .209 batting average against through five starts.
Possessing half of the team's wins, the right-hander is pleased with his own dominant output, which is displayed by his 1.31 ERA with Lakewood dating back to last season, but Leiter, a Forked River, NJ native, credits his teammates for his personal success.
"I'm playing with a lot of really good players and I'm fortunate to throw to some really good catchers and this year, with (Gabriel) Lino, we've been on the same page every time we've been out there and it's been outstanding. When you're on the same page with the catcher, that makes a lot of difference," explained the reserved Leiter before offering additional props to the players behind him.
"The defense has been really great. You know, I think not overthrowing and trusting your defense helps you a lot in tight spots and getting those double play balls or whatever the case might be, a diving play here or something. So, it's been a lot of things clicking," Leiter stated.
In his most recent outing on Saturday at Lakewood's FirstEnergy Park, Leiter tossed eight shutout innings, allowing four hits while striking out five and walking two, earning the win against the Mets affiliate Savannah.
Son of former big leaguer Mark Leiter Sr., who pitched for the Yankees, Phillies and six other teams at the top level of the sport, and nephew of former Major League pitcher Al Leiter, the younger Leiter has found it easy to transition to professional baseball after being around it for so much of his life.
Leiter, who was selected by the Phillies in the 22nd round of the 2013 draft, may have surprised some with his output, but the BlueClaws' coaching staff aren't on that list of people that didn't see this type of potential in the six-foot 195-pounder..
"Nothing he does surprises me," asserted Lakewood manager Greg Legg. "He knows how to pitch, keeps us in the game, does his job. He's kind of a quiet leader on our team (and he's) a good pitcher."
Asked about if he is personally has any level of amazement with the type of success he's had since turning pro after being drafted out of the New Jersey Institute of Technology last June, Leiter attributes his readiness as being key.
"You prepare all spring training and all off-season to go out and have success, so if you're surprised by it, maybe...you didn't work as well as you thought you worked to get to that point. But I think with the Phillies organization we have a great setup with everything and our preparation has allowed us to expect to have success."
Looking as though he's got nothing left to prove in the South Atlantic League, Leiter isn't focusing on a possible promotion. He's only concerned with the assignment he's given and will continue to shine for the BlueClaws until he gets the chance to pitch at a higher level.
"Where ever I'm pitching, that's what I'm concentrating on. I don't really want to look ahead to anything like that. I'm enjoying the moment and the ride that goes along with it. You know, I don't really want to look ahead at this point."
Jay Floyd created and writes the website PhoulBallz.com about area minor league clubs, like the Lakewood BlueClaws, from the inside. In the autumn of 2010 Jay began writing in a freelance capacity and joined PhilliesNation.com as a minor league contributor and is also a correspondent and panelist on the show of the same name.