Phillies’ Leiter returns from ‘pen to start against Padres

SAN DIEGO — The Philadelphia Phillies are turning to Mark Leiter Jr. to oppose the San Diego Padres in the middle outing of a three-game series on Tuesday night.

“You got a problem with that?” Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said with a wide smile.

The Phillies had been coy about which pitcher would oppose Dinelson Lamet (6-4, 5.00 ERA) at Petco Park. Mackanin was keeping quiet in case he needed Leiter (1-2, 4.08) for a long role out of the bullpen before the Tuesday contest.

In fact, Leiter’s three most recent outings have come in relief. His last two appearances were especially keen.

Against the New York Mets on Thursday, he allowed but a run and four hits over five innings with seven strikeouts and no walks. Versus the Colorado Rockies on Aug. 5, he surrendered no runs and two hits in 4 1/3 innings, striking out nine without issuing a walk.

“I sure like the way he has pitched,” Mackanin said. “He can be very effective.”

Leiter, a rookie right-hander, is making the fourth start of his career. He has split the two decisions he received when starting previously. Leiter’s most recent start was on July 4, when he worked 5 1/3 innings in a loss against the Pittsburgh Pirates. He was charged with two runs and four hits.

“He’s got such a variety of pitches,” said Mackanin, who saw Leiter for the first time this spring. “He’s got a good fastball that he can locate, he’s got a curve, a cutter, a changeup and probably a couple I have forgotten about.”

The mix is varied, and so is the thinking behind using what pitch when. Sometimes Mackanin struggles thinking along the same lines as Leiter, who will be facing the Padres for the first time.

“He can use the pitches in different situations that, at least in his mind, they are designed for that count and situation,” Mackanin said.

Leiter, 26, has also found his legs while showing off his right arm. Enduring a couple of rocky outings isn’t a shocker from someone making the jump to the majors.

“When he first got here, the first go-around with the nerves, and wondering what to do …” Mackanin said. “But the further he gets into it, the more confidence he has.”

Mackanin believes the 6-foot, 195-pounder Leiter has the goods.

“He can give you a spot start, he can give you length out of the bullpen,” Mackanin said. “He can pitch an inning if he hasn’t pitched in three or four days and then use him for four innings the next day. Those guys are valuable.”

Lamet, who faces the Phillies for the first time, continues to prove his worth, winning three of his last four starts. In his last outing against Cincinnati on Thursday, the right-hander probably pitched better than his line: five innings, two runs and three hits. The Reds didn’t have a hit the final three innings he worked.

“The slider was good, the stuff was good,” Padres manager Andy Green said after the game. “The stuff is real. Overall, another good outing from him.”

Lamet has allowed by one earned run in two starts and 12 innings against NL East teams.

The Padres will be looking to wrap up a series win after taking the opener 7-4 on Monday.