Mark Leiter Jr. thriving in late-inning role for Cubs
Mark Leiter Jr. isn’t one to show emotion too often.
But the moment more than called for it.
Friday afternoon, during a seesaw 8-7 win over the Brewers, Leiter Jr. pitched a perfect 8th inning, striking out all 3 batters he faced.
“You wanna take every opportunity and put your best effort out there,” Leiter Jr. said. “It’s just a back-and-forth game and once it got into the bullpen, we wanted to nail it down.”
Since the trade deadline when the Cubs dealt four relievers, Leiter Jr. has begun to see more usage later in the game.
“He’s earned some trust in getting some leverage innings,” Ross said after Friday’s win.
Since he was recalled from Triple-A on July 30, Leiter Jr. has been stellar for the Cubs. He’s had scoreless appearances in 6 of his 7 outings, pitching to a 1.35 ERA in 13.1 innings. In that time, he’s picked up a hold and his first career save.
“Yeah, absolutely there’s a different strategy, different mindset of what you’re gonna do,” Leiter Jr. said. “Trying to throw a lot more strikes in the beginning.
“Certainly, a little bit more adrenaline than normal and I’ve been fortunate to get a couple really cool opportunities recently and just trying to take a hold of them.”
That’s been the story of Leiter Jr.’s career. Originally drafted by Philadelphia, he debuted with the Phillies in 2017 out of the bullpen and then made 11 starts. He made 20 appearances in 2018 with the Phillies and Blue Jays and spent 2019 and 2021 in the minors with Toronto and Detroit before the Cubs signed him to a minor-league deal last December. There was also a Tommy John surgery in there that cost him most of the 2019 season.
“I think my niche of getting to the big leagues was to be able to do everything,” Leiter Jr. said.
That’s what’s helping him thrive in his current role. He learned some of that from some of the veterans that were traded this season, like Chris Martin, David Robertson, Mychal Givens and Jesse Chavez.
“We got to learn a lot from them,” Leiter Jr. said. “Chavey was a guy that had done both [start and relieve], so I leaned on him a little bit early in the year about how to handle some things.
“It’s been just take the ball when you’re called and put your best effort out there.”