Phillies pitcher Mark Leiter: From farm fodder to potential 2018 starter

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PHILADELPHIA, PA - AUGUST 23: Mark Leiter Jr. #59 of the Philadelphia Phillies throws a pitch in the top of the first inning against the Miami Marlins at Citizens Bank Park on August 23, 2017 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
PHILADELPHIA, PA - AUGUST 23: Mark Leiter Jr. #59 of the Philadelphia Phillies throws a pitch in the top of the first inning against the Miami Marlins at Citizens Bank Park on August 23, 2017 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images) /
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Mark Leiter, Jr. started off this season as a filler arm in Triple-A before eventually emerging as a potential piece of the Phillies 2018 rotation.

Mark Leiter, Jr. was the first Phillies pitcher we saw this year, starting the team’s exhibition game with the University of Tampa to kick off the spring training schedule. No one really ever put much stock into the 26-year-old after being drafted in the 22nd round of the 2013 draft. He was never on a top prospect list nor invited to spring training. However, he is finally starting to put his name on the map this year.

Leiter was called up to the majors early on to help relieve what was a heavily-taxed bullpen. As a starter, he had the durability to throw multiple innings of relief, so several of his relief appearances went beyond just one inning.

In fact, Leiter has shown he can throw a starter’s workload from the bullpen after early exits from starting pitchers. Aug. 5 against the Rockies, Leiter threw 4.1 scoreless innings of relief after Nick Pivetta surrendered eight runs before the third inning even ended. Five days later against the Mets Leiter pitched five one-run innings after Vince Velasquez exited with a finger injury.

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What’s even more promising about Leiter is the fact that he has been even better as a starter this year. In five starts, Leiter has a 3.18 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, and 2.75 strikeout-to-walk ratio.

Leiter’s most recent start was easily his best and one of the best starts of any Phillies pitchers this season. He carried a no-hitter through five innings, walking two batters and surrendering just one double.

Leiter kept the Marlins scoreless for seven innings while striking out five.

With Velasquez done for the year and injuries constantly plaguing the rotation, Leiter could get the chance to start for the rest of the season. He has been acting as the team’s swingman for now, but a spot in the starting rotation could be possible if he shows something the rest of this year.

Next: Phillies rotation woes causing 2017 struggles

Next year there will be at least one, if not two spots in the starting rotation up for grabs. Leiter is certainly in that conversation, and a strong push the last month of the season could continue to build his case.

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