The Cubs are planning to add right-hander Mark Leiter Jr. to the big league roster, manager David Ross told reporters (including Maddie Lee of the Chicago Sun-Times) this evening. He’ll get the start tomorrow night against the Rockies, his first MLB action in four years.
Leiter, the son of the longtime big league hurler with the same name, is a former Phillies draftee who reached the majors in Philadelphia in 2017. The New Jersey Tech product started 11 of his 27 appearances that season, working a career-high 90 2/3 innings. He pitched to a 4.96 ERA with capable if unspectacular strikeout, walk and ground-ball rates.
It seemed as if Leiter might settle in as a long-term swing option for the Phils, but he had a difficult follow-up campaign. Working exclusively in relief, he was tagged for a 5.40 ERA in 12 appearances in 2018. Leiter allowed five home runs in 16 2/3 innings, and the Phils designated him for assignment late in the year. The Blue Jays grabbed him off waivers, but they outrighted him that offseason after he struggled in eight more appearances with Toronto.
Leiter underwent Tommy John surgery the following March, an injury that cost him the entire 2019 season. He signed a minor league deal with the Diamondbacks in 2020, but the pandemic wiped out the minors schedule. Leiter landed with the Tigers last season on another non-roster pact. He pitched to a 3.77 ERA in 114 2/3 innings between Double-A Erie and Triple-A Toledo, striking out an excellent 30.7% of opponents in the process.
Detroit never gave him a big league look, but Leiter’s strong showing caught the attention of the Cubs’ front office last winter. After just one four-inning outing with their top affiliate in Iowa, he’ll head back to the majors. Leiter is not on the 40-man roster, so the Cubs will need to free up a spot before tomorrow’s game.