By Matt Williams
---- — Jack Leathersich might have been the only happy Boston Bruins fan in America at around 1 a.m. Thursday morning.
Not that the 22-year-old lefty wasn’t upset to see the Black-and-Gold lose Game 1 of their Stanley Cup Final series with Chicago in triple overtime. Rather, he’d just received a call that he was headed to Las Vegas.
Leathersich was promoted from Double-A Binghamton to Triple-A Las Vegas in the New York Mets’ farm system yesterday, hopping on a cross country flight to report to the aptly named 51s (after nearby Roswell, N.M. and the famed Area 51). Because his cross country flight and subsequent journey directly to the ballpark, he was unavailable for comment last night.
In his third season as a pro after being drafted in the fifth round out of UMass-Lowell in 2011, Leathersich has been dominant in Double-A ball this spring. He’s struck out 55 batters in 29 1/3 innings for Binghamton, numbers that equate to a strikeout per nine innings ratio of nearly 17.
In addition, Leathersich has held his opponents to a .181 batting average against while picking up three saves. He also increased his command dramatically, which may have led to his call-up; Leathersich walked 10 batters in April, then issued only three free passes in May and three in June.
“I’m staggered by the numbers, but not by the path he’s on,” said Ken Harring, the UMass Lowell coach who recruited Leathersich out of Beverly High and helped develop him as a River Hawk. “He’s a special talent.”
Leathersich won’t pitch close to home very often throwing in the Pacific Coast League with Las Vegas, but he got a chance to do so in Double-A against New Hampshire just a few weeks ago. In one inning he struck out all three batters he faced, with all of them backward K’s for being caught looking.
“I saw him at New Hampshire and he looked great,” said Beverly High baseball coach Dave Wilbur, Leathersich’s high school coach. “He’s throwing 94 mph consistently, and he’s throwing it by guys. He was Mets’ Minor League Player of the Month in May, he’s healthy and he’s doing really well. I’m happy for him.”
Las Vegas will be the latest stop for Leathersich in what’s been a remarkable rise through the Mets’ organization. At Lowell, he went 16-8 over three seasons with a 2.50 earned run average and 251 strikeouts. He made a name for himself pitching with Orleans in the Cape Cod League, and broke into the pros with Brooklyn after being drafted in 2011.
In 114 professional innings, Leatherwich has struck out 194 batters. Now, the southpaw is just one step away from the big leagues — and being in Gotham by September is not out of the question. The Beverly lefty certainly has the mental makeup to pitch out the bullpen in the Big Apple.
“He believes he’s better than everyone else and that’s half the battle,” said Harring. “He has the ability to block everything out and focus on the battle and the job at hand.”