SEATTLE — When Scott Servais was asked about rookie Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Mark Leiter Jr., the Seattle Mariners manager didn’t look far for a comparison.
“Junior looks a lot like his dad,” Servais said. “He’s got a lot of pitches and throws everything up there.”
Mark Leiter pitched 11 seasons in the major leagues, including two seasons with the Phillies (1997-98) and two games for the Mariners (1999).
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“That’s an honor to hear,” said the younger Leiter (1-0, 3.60 ERA), who is scheduled to start Wednesday at Seattle. “He played a long time.”
With his father in attendance, Mark Leiter Jr. made his first major league start last Friday at Arizona. He pitched six scoreless innings, allowing three hits with one walk and five strikeouts to earn his first victory.
“I was just trying to go out there and do my best, trying to keep the team in there,” said Leiter, whose uncle Al pitched 19 seasons in the big leagues.
In 12 relief appearances prior to the start, Leiter had pitched 19 innings and posted a 4.74 ERA. He had allowed just 13 hits but had walked 14 and struck out 12. He pitched 1 1/3 innings of relief against the Mariners in a 10-9 loss on May 9, allowing two runs (one earned) on one hit with one walk and one strikeout.
“We had seen him in the bullpen and he was walking too many,” Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said. “He had one bad outing (May 30 at Miami), we sent him out (to Triple-A Lehigh Valley). He got some starts down there, and next thing you know, he’s pitching against the Diamondbacks and stuck it to them.”
Leiter Jr. admitted he is more comfortable as a starter.
“I love starting,” he said, “but I can’t control everything. I just try to be ready when they give me the ball.”
When it was jokingly suggested Leiter throws about 13 different pitches, Mackanin interrupted.
“Just 12,” the Phillies manager deadpanned. “He’s got a good repertoire of pitches that all work.”
Leiter might need all of them Wednesday afternoon against a Seattle team that is 18-11 in its past 29 games, averaging more than six runs per game and batting nearly .300 in that span. The Mariners are also 8-5 in interleague play this season, including a two-game sweep in Philadelphia last month.
The Phillies won the series opener 8-2 Tuesday night.
Seattle left fielder Ben Gamel would be atop the American League in batting with a .341 average if he had a few more plate appearances to qualify for the leaders. Designated hitter Nelson Cruz and second baseman Robinson Cano are both in the top five in the AL in RBIs, and catcher Mike Zunino, who batted ninth Tuesday, has 30 RBIs this month.
While Leiter will be making his second career start, longtime Mariners ace Felix Hernandez (3-2, 4.68 ERA) will be making his second start since coming back from the disabled list. Hernandez was out from April 26 to June 22 with bursitis in his right shoulder, the first time he landed been on the DL with an arm problem in a decade.
In his first game back, Hernandez allowed three runs in six innings last Friday to get a victory against the Houston Astros.
Hernandez has faced the Phillies only once in his career, on June 18, 2011. He allowed three runs in seven innings during a 5-1 loss.