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More confident Wade LeBlanc has been ‘a great find’ for Mariners

Wade LeBlanc's body language is "polar opposite" from last year, says Greg Amsinger. (AP)

Entering 2018, Wade LeBlanc had made double-digit starts in the majors just twice since debuting with the San Diego Padres 10 years ago. He was coming off spending a season-plus as a reliever for the Pittsburgh Pirates, and he ended up back in Seattle for a second stint with the Mariners after failing to make the Yankees out of spring training.

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After all that, the 33-year-old LeBlanc has turned into one of the Mariners’ best players. He’s 3-0 with a 2.63 ERA and 1.10 WHIP, and his last start was an absolute gem against the Boston Red Sox, as he threw 7 2/3 scoreless innings while striking out nine and allowing just two hits and no walks.

Greg Amsinger, host for the MLB Network, joined Bob, Groz and Tom on Tuesday and talked about the difference he has seen in LeBlanc with Seattle compared to his time in Pittsburgh.

“To me, the body language is polar opposite than what I saw when he was with the Pittsburgh Pirates,” Amsinger said. “He was very deliberate, didn’t look as athletic. Now he’s got much more athleticism in his delivery and he’s got confidence out there. I just like the way he attacks. He’s not nibbling. … Those nibblers never dominate and LeBlanc used to be one. Now he’s very aggressive, believes in the fingers that his catcher’s putting down and he’s getting after the opposition. I’m telling you, he’s been a great find.”

Amsinger compares LeBlanc’s emergence to that of Padres closer Brad Hand, a fellow lefty who benefited from moving to a new team and is now one of the elite relievers in baseball.

“When you connect with a pitching coach and you connect with a catcher, things can change. A change of scenery can help someone,” Amsinger said. “… Brad Hand figured it out as the closer of the San Diego Padres. No one ever thought that Brad Hand would be a dominant reliever when he was pitching for the Miami Marlins as a starter. No one ever thought he had the stuff to do what he’s doing. … What we’ve seen from LeBlanc is very similar.”

LeBlanc, who moved from the Mariners’ bullpen to the rotation on May 3, is one of the reasons they are in a good spot to make the playoffs this year.

“Sometimes you need the surprise stories if you’re going to have a magical season,” Amsinger said. “LeBlanc in the rotation performing like this, no one saw that coming and he could get a postseason start if they get past the wild card game.”

You can listen to the full segment with Amsinger in this podcast of Bob, Groz and Tom’s Tuesday show.

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