By Phil Stacey
---- — His arm feels good. His stuff has been even better. His body is holding up just fine, too.
If spring training is any indication, Jack Leathersich is ready to have a big season pitching in the New York Mets organization.
The left-handed fireballing relief pitcher from Beverly has been lights out in the Mets’ minor league camp during spring training, a testament not only to his natural talent but also the work he put in to prepare himself for the 2013 season. He’s hoping both have drawn the attention of his bosses as the team gets ready to break camp in a few days.
Ideally, Leathersich would love to start the season in Binghamton, N.Y. with the Mets’ Double-A team.
“I don’t know if that’ll happen or not, but that’s what I’m hoping for,” said the 5-foot-11, 205-pound southpaw, who spent the majority of his 2012 season with the St. Lucie Mets of the Florida State (high A) League. “I know there are guys still up with the big league camp that need to get sent down to us and that shifts things around a bit, so I guess I’ll see when they tell us where we’re going. But I’m hopeful.”
Training with the Mets’ minor leaguers in St. Lucie — a half-hour north of West Palm Beach — Leathersich has been throwing between 91 and 94 miles an hour while using all three of his pitches (fastball, slider, changeup) effectively. He began throwing on Jan. 1 and gradually built up his arm strength and prepared himself mentally prior to leaving for spring training last month.
He also made his Major League spring training debut against the Detroit Tigers this past Sunday. He pitched a scoreless ninth inning, allowing two walks and a hut while striking out one batter and topping out at 95 miles an hour.
The 22-year-old realizes this is a big year as far as where his professional career goes. He’s being used every third day in one-inning relief roles against Double-A players and has struck out a majority of the batters he’s faced thus far. That shouldn’t come as a surprise, seeing as how the former Beverly High and UMass Lowell star fanned 113 batters in just 72 innings last summer between Savannah (Ga.) of the South Atlantic League and St. Lucie.
“I’m very happy with how things have gone thus far,” said Leathersich, who has been visited in Florida by his parents, Lew and Leslie, as well as his girlfriend. “I’ve had some really good outings so far, and I’m really happy with my velocity. I’m never going to throw 100 mph, but it’s more about location and what pitch to throw what guy. I can dial it up if I want to, but it’s more about staying within myself.”
The team’s fifth round pick (162nd overall) in the 2011 amateur draft, Leathersich was called up for a big league game a week-and-a-half ago when the Mets took on the Atlanta Bravesin Lake Buena Vista, Fla., But the Mets’ starting pitcher, Jeremy Heffner, went longer (5 innings) into his pitch count than the club expected, and Leathersich didn’t end up appearing in the contest.
“I didn’t mind; it was a great experience just being up there for the game,” said Leathersich. “My focus is staying strong, maintaining a proper diet and keep working out to stay healthy. Plus, you have to stay mentally ready; people don’t realize really get that 142 games in 159 days is a long, long season. It’s those 1-2 days a week that you have to push yourself through (the mental fatigue) and see the long term goal you’re striving for.”
In a perfect world, Leathersich would love to begin the year in the Binghamton bullpen, have a terrific season at Double-A and get called up to the Major Leagues when teams expand their rosters in September. With the New York Mets not expected to contend for a playoff berth this season and lefty relievers always at a premium, it’s a dream that could come true for the Garden City southpaw.
“You can’t get caught up in that stuff and let it get in your head. You can’t lose sight of to what you’re trying to do as a player and a person,” he said. “I just want to get off to a good start and have a good year wherever they assign me.
“If I get called up, awesome. My goal is obviously to be up in the big leagues and help that bullpen out.
“I want to have my best year.”