Detroit Tigers know Texas Rangers' Jack Leiter 'likes his fastball' heading into MLB debut

Expect to see a lot of fastballs from Jack Leiter.

At least that's what the Detroit Tigers were planning for ahead of Thursday's game against the Texas Rangers at Comerica Park, the finale of a four-game series. The Rangers called up Leiter — one of the top prospects in baseball and the No. 2 overall pick in the 2021 draft — for his MLB debut.

In the 2021 draft, the Tigers selected right-hander Jackson Jobe with the No. 3 overall pick.

"There are no secrets when you get to this level because we can record everything," Tigers manager A.J. Hinch said before Thursday's game. "We can find out exactly how you're pitching, what your stuff is doing, what your shapes are. The only unfamiliar part of facing a young kid like this is the beginning, just the first time you see where the release is and where his stuff actually goes. You got to be a quick learn in the batter's box, but he doesn't really hide that fact that he likes his fastball, and he pitches off of it. It's a challenge-type thing."

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Mar 8, 2024; Surprise, Arizona, USA; Texas Rangers starting pitcher Jack Leiter (71) pitches against the Kansas City Royals during the first inning at Surprise Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 8, 2024; Surprise, Arizona, USA; Texas Rangers starting pitcher Jack Leiter (71) pitches against the Kansas City Royals during the first inning at Surprise Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Leiter, a 23-year-old right-hander, posted a 3.77 ERA with three walks and 25 strikeouts across 14⅓ innings in three games with Triple-A Round Rock. He threw 66 pitches in the first game, 78 pitches in the second game and 83 pitches in the third game.

He probably won't have any pitch restrictions under 100 against the Tigers.

Most of his pitches will be fastballs.

It's an elite fastball that misses bats and rides.

The Tigers didn't start center fielder Parker Meadows, a left-handed hitter who struggles against high-velocity fastballs, even with a fly-ball pitcher in right-hander Kenta Maeda on the mound.

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The Tigers also looked into the platoon splits. Last season, Leiter allowed a .266 average and .822 OPS to right-handed hitters, but just a .203 average and .754 OPS to left-handed hitters.

"He's very glove-side oriented," Hinch said. "Usually his mistakes bleed back over, but he loves the glove side of everything, whether it's fastball or breaking ball, which is away to righties and gives a decision point to lefties. You go with your guys that hit the fastball and can put up some good-bats."

Leiter is the son of Al Leiter, who pitched 19 MLB seasons from 1987-2005, made two All-Star teams and won two World Series. He is the nephew of Mark Leiter, who pitched 11 MLB seasons from 1990-2001. And he is the cousin of Mark Leiter Jr., who has pitched five MLB seasons from 2017-18 and 2022-24.

Mark Leiter Jr., currently working out of the bullpen for the Chicago Cubs, pitched for Double-A Erie and Triple-A Toledo in the Tigers' organization, but he wasn't promoted to the big leagues. Mark Leiter, by the way, compete three of his 11 seasons for the Tigers in 1991, 1992 and 1993.

"This is a young kid who's going to have as much adrenaline as any pitcher that we face this year," Hinch said, "just given that it's his first day and the magnitude of his debut. We got to beat his fastball."

Brendan White

Right-handed reliever Brendan White, a member of the 40-man roster, has been placed on the development list.

He is working on his mechanics in Lakeland, Florida.

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"We got to get him in the strike zone," Hinch said. "He has been erratic for the better part of spring into the beginning part of the season. It was time for us to address some mechanical issues in getting him to locate his pitches competitively. ... The only way to really give him a break and get him back into spring training mode was that transaction."

White, 25, posted a 5.09 ERA with 15 walks and 44 strikeouts across 40⅔ innings in 33 games for the Tigers last season. He reported right elbow soreness at the beginning of spring training and missed a few weeks in camp.

Medical update

The Tigers released their latest medical update Tuesday.

Two players remained on the list.

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Right-hander Sawyer Gipson-Long suffered right forearm tightness while recovering from a left groin strain. He continues to get opinions from different doctors about his forearm injury, and he told reporters — including's Jason Beck — that he has already visited Dr. Tim Griffith in Atlanta and Dr. Keith Meister in Texas.

Utility player Andy Ibáñez, recovering from a left hamstring strain, continues to progress in his return to play running progression while completing hitting and defensive drills. He won't be activated until at least Monday, if not later than that.

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This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Detroit Tigers know Texas Rangers' Jack Leiter 'likes his fastball'