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Wednesday newsletter time: Jack Leiter a bust? Way too early to say

(Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports)

 

ARLINGTON — The howls on Twitter were instantaneous.

Jack Leiter is a bust.

There were calls for him to never pitch in the majors again after he allowed six runs in 1 2/3 innings Tuesday night to the Guardians in an eventual 7-4 loss. Other cheeky comments were also made.

They were made in the heat of the moment, when logic is often absent.

Leiter is struggling. It seems safe to say he isn’t ready for full-time major-league duty.

But a bust? He’s not, at least not yet, and it will be a few more seasons until that determination is made.

The majors are littered with really good pitchers, Hall of Famers, who didn’t fare well early in their careers. Justin Verlander had a 7.15 ERA after his first two career starts in 2005. Greg Maddux posted a 5.52 ERA in his first taste of the majors in 1986.

Leiter is in his third professional season, at the start of it no less. He has been terrific at Triple A Round Rock, but the Pacific Coast League is not the American League. Major-league hitters are grinding Leiter into the ground by staying patient when he loses the strike zone and extending at-bats until they get a pitch to hit.

Both were an issue against the Guardians, who saw 64 pitches from Leiter.

“Such an important part of the game is commanding it,” Bochy said. “At times, he looked really good. They fought off a lot of tough pitches. I was pulling for him so hard there.”

The Rangers could option Leiter to Round Rock as soon as today. They have two off days ahead and can manipulate the rotation enough to skip Leiter’s next turn. Also, Dane Dunning could be ready to return next week.

The Rangers could keep Leiter with the club pending Dunning’s status, allow him to work with pitching coach Mike Maddux and watch his work between starts. An appearance out of the bullpen might help Leiter feel more comfortable.

“He’s getting close,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “These are teaching moments.”

Leiter is going to pitch for the Rangers again this season. Three outings do not make for a large enough sample size to consider him a bust, and those saying it sound silly.

Nice rebound

The Rangers turned to Jonathan Hernandez, who walked eight batters in his past two appearances, to replace Leiter. Yerry Rodriguez, who hasn’t been particularly crisp this season despite making the Opening Day roster, followed Hernandez.

The right-handers delivered 6 1/3 scoreless innings.

Rodriguez did the heavy lifting with four scoreless frames in the best outing of his career. He did so by pounding the strike zone and forcing Guardians hitters to put the ball in play.

He didn’t have any strikeouts or any walks, though he did hit a batter, and he needed only 44 pitches. Thirty of those were strikes.

Hernandez issued one walk and struck out two, and 28 of his 39 pitches were strikes.

Both have been in fans’ crosshairs all season, but particularly in the past week. They aren’t suddenly going to be closing games, but they probably bought themselves some time with their performances.

“They should see they can pitch here,” Bochy said. “They have really great stuff. When they attack the zone, good things happen, and that’s what happened tonight.”

Neither will be available to pitch again until Friday.

 

Lineup better

The Rangers collected seven hits, three of them solo home runs, and gave themselves a few opportunities that they failed to cash in. That rates as improvement for a star-studded lineup struggling to score runs.

One misfire came in the fourth inning, with the Rangers trailing 6-2. They had the bases loaded with two outs against Guardians starter Ben Lively, who had just walked Leody Taveras to bring up Marcus Semien.

Lively threw five pitches, each one off the low, outside corner. Semien couldn’t help himself, striking out, and then he let it out.

He planted his bat in the ground and followed by doing the same with his batting helmet. He then dropped into a catcher’s crouch, visibly frustrated.

That at-bat aside, Bochy thought the lineup looked better than it had of late.

“Throughout the lineup we had some better at-bats,” Bochy said. “That’s always a good sign.”

Adolis Garcia, Corey Seager and Nathaniel Lowe connected for home runs. Garcia’s homer snapped the Rangers’ scoreless streak at 18 innings, and it was his first homer of the month after hitting eight in March/April.

Bochy said that Garcia, who later doubled, might be trying to do too much during a skid that is at 11 for 53 in his past 12 games. That might have been what Semien was guilty of in the fourth inning.

Doggy video!

I’m the husky when we run out of chips and salsa. The Samoyed is my wife. Enjoy.

Jeff Wilson, jeff@rangerstoday.com

 

Jeff Wilson

Sports reporter for two decades. Sports fan for life. Covers the Texas Rangers. Graduate of TCU. Colorado native. Author of Purple Passion: TCU Football Legends (https://t.co/2fmXLyympx). Follow me on Twitter at @JeffWilsonTXR

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